Royal Navy on active service in Afghanistan

Duke of York meets Naval Airmen from 857 NAS in Afghanistan 14 Jul 2013.jpg
The Duke of York with members of 857 Naval Air Squadron
(RN website photo)

RN website 18 Jul 2013 said:
The Duke of York has travelled to Afghanistan where he met with personnel from Naval Airmen from 857 Naval Air Squadron and Fleet Air Arm.

His Royal Highness flew into Camp Bastion on Saturday and stayed overnight at the base. On Sunday morning he had a breakfast meeting with the Commander of Joint Force Support (Afghanistan), Air Commodore John Bessell, where they discussed the redeployment of equipment back to the UK. After breakfast he visited medical staff at the Military Hospital before travelling to the Joint Aviation Group (JAG). After speaking with the Commander of the JAG, Group Captain Frazer Nicholson, he was able to meet with personnel from 857 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), Fleet Air Arm, and reflect on his previous naval career experience compared to the Unit’s modern day role.

857 NAS operate the Royal Navy's Sea King Mk7 Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters (SKASaC) in support of operations across Central Helmand, their sophisticated radar system providing intelligence to ground forces...


War Hero
Book Reviewer
Good to see someone taking an interest in the bags. When the Duke of York came out during one of my little trips out there the army told us to shut the hangar door and stay out the way as he wasnt there to see us, only them.

Sent from my HTC Desire using Navy Net - Rum Ration mobile app


I've been trying to follow 857's deployment, but haven't seen any news articles since the one on the 18th of July about the Duke of York. Since I haven't seen anything to suggest otherwise, I assume they're still in Afghanistan?

Also are they the only RN unit still deployed in Afghanistan?
It's been a while.

LS Derek Parsons.jpg
LS Derek Parsons in Afghanistan
(RN website photo)
RN website 20 Jun 2013 said:
A Reservist’s wife, from Codnor in Derbyshire, has spoken out for the first time about the amount of support she received at home whilst her husband was in Afghanistan and how it is great to have him home again.

Nicky Parsons, aged 42, is married to Derek, a Naval Reservist, who is based at HMS Sherwood, Nottinghamshire’s only Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) unit. The couple have three young children and have been happily married for 18 years. Derek, who was recently promoted to Petty Officer, deployed to Afghanistan in February 2012 and completed a six month tour as a Royal Naval Reservist, working with his Regular Service colleagues.

Derek was the first rating of the Royal Naval Reserve to be mobilised to Afghanistan in an Information Operations role...
It's much quieter these days (at least for us back home) so this one passed me by last week:

Daily Telegraph 11 Nov 2013 said:
Royal Navy lock Marsh Cormack has been given a week's leave from his duties in Afghanistan so he can play in the showpiece match which raises money every year for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal

Marsh Cormack has been allowed a short break from active service in Afghanistan to play for the Combined Services against the Barbarians in the Remembrance Match at Plymouth on Tuesday night. The Royal Navy lock, an air engineering technician, has been granted a week’s leave to return to England to play in the fixture, a showpiece for services rugby, which will honour fallen comrades and raise money for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

“Marsh has taken a week’s leave to fly home and play in this match which shows his commitment to Combined Services rugby and how much this match means,” Doc Cox, the Combined Services director of rugby, said. “Quite a few of the squad have seen service in Afghanistan, we all know people who have not made it home so it is a very poignant fixture.”...
RN Apache support team in Afghanistan Nov 2013.jpg
Lt Dan Leaker RN, PO Mark Stanton, PO Steve Copper
and Lt Jonny Orchard RN in Afghanistan

(RN website photo)
RN website 25 Nov 2013 said:
Four sailors have completed a demanding tour of duty helping to support the Army’s Apache missions over Helmand. The quartet – three engineers and one pilot – joined 653 Squadron Army Air Corps which is in action daily in Afghan skies.

Standing proudly in front of one of the Apache gunships for which they’ve been responsible are four sailors who’ve completed a demanding tour of duty in Afghanistan. For the past five months the quartet have worked side by side with their soldier counterparts of 653 Squadron Army Air Corps, flying or supporting daily missions by the helicopters which provide crucial air cover for ground troops.

Just as the Army’s Apaches recently joined HMS Illustrious in the Gulf to give added punch to amphibious exercises, so a small cadre of Navy personnel has been vital to supporting the gunships’ missions over Afghanistan...
Yes, RN personnel (including RNRs) are still serving in Afghanistan:

Lt Cdr Lawrence Dunner RNR.jpg
Lt Cdr Lawrence Dunne RNR
(RN website photo)

RN website 28 Mar 2014 said:
A Royal Navy Reservist, who upgraded a vital computer system in Afghanistan, has been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service.

Having been in operation for several years, the UK's computer information network in Afghanistan was becoming dated and starting to show signs of vulnerability. The Sharepoint system contained a number of mission critical functions such as chat rooms, situational awareness and battlespace de-confliction and it was therefore vital that it was updated and safely secured.

Ensuring this was the case became the role of Lieutenant Commander Lawrence Dunne, from HMS Forward, in Birmingham. A triple Afghanistan veteran, the 57-year-old returned to Afghanistan in 2013 in order to undertake the Sharepoint upgrade. His knowledge from three previous Herrick deployments meant Lt Cdr Dunne was immediately able to identify where the problems lay and implement solutions...

The Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS) recognises meritorious service during, or in support of, operations. The latest operation honours list is for service between April and September 2013.
Last edited:
Another one for the record courtesy of Soleil:

Surg Cdr Jo Leason OBE RN.jpg
Surg Cdr Jo Leason OBE RN
Plymouth Herald 7 Apr 2014 said:
A NAVY surgeon who extended her tour in Afghanistan to make sure wounded soldiers were getting the right treatment has been awarded an OBE.

Royal Navy consultant radiologist Jo Leason extended her tour of duty to ensure that local surgical teams could successfully treat their own wounded soldiers. When the 39-year-old, arrived in the war-torn country, Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) doctors had only performed one simple surgical procedure at Camp Shorabak in the south west of the country. Now, thanks to the “inspired leadership and dogmatic resolve” of the medic from Yealmpton, they have performed several hundred operations, largely on battle injuries...

The former St Dunstan’s Abbey head girl, who has completed four tours of duty in Afghanistan, has been awarded the OBE, for those who make a significant impact in support of UK interests.
Shamelessly lifted from the April issue of Navy News:

Navy News Apr 2014 said:
Navy expertise is vital for air power

NAVAL personnel still have important roles to play in Afghanistan - including crucial support to a Royal Air Force group providing security across eight million square miles of land and sea. Maritime expertise is integrated with air power to underpin the operations of 83 Expeditionary Air Group across Afghanistan and the Middle East...

83 EAG works through five deployed Expeditionary Air Wings, two in Afghanistan. 903 EAW operates from Camp Bastion airfield - the fifth busiest British-operated airfield in the world, and pivotal to the drawdown of equipment and personnel from Afghanistan. Aircraft from Afghanistan frequently route over the Gulf, where Coalition naval vessels can control airspace and provide protection and space if necessary. Aircraft movements are monitored in the Combined Air Ops Centre, where 83 EAG commanders and their Coalition partners see the tracks of aircraft and vessels on cinema-sized screens.

One of the sailors making that integration work is RN Liaison Officer Lt Cdr Carlos Garreta, based in the HQ of 83 EAG.

Lt Cdr Carlos Garreta RN.jpg
Lt Cdr Carlos Garreta RN working in HQ of 83 EAG
(Navy News photo by Sgt Ross Tilly RAF)

"On a day-to-day basis I provide a source of maritime air defence expertise, and for me this is a golden opportunity to bring my air warfare skills to bear and see how the RAF works when deployed on operations," he said. "My secondary duty is to look for and plan training opportunities."
Lt Cdr Garetta said of his time alongside the RAF: "We have a long track record of working together. Individuals working in key places make the relationships work. If you come with an open mind, enthusiasm and a sense of humour the relationship is alive and kicking."

He believes relevant experience and regional knowledge is critical.

"I was trained as a Fighter Controller in 2004 at Yeovilton before joining HMS York when she supported the non combatant evacuation operation from Beirut in 2006," he said. "I saw further service in the Middle East on HMS Northumberland when escorting World Food Programme ships to Mogadishu."

Lt Cdr Garreta also spent time on the Herrick desk at Permanent Joint HQ and with the Libya campaign.

Naval integration can also be found in the high desert of Afghanistan at 904 EAW, in the eastern province of Kandahar. This Air Wing is host to the tactical air transport provided by C-130 and BAe 146 aircraft as well as a detachment of Tornado GR4 jets supporting ground operations with frequent imagery gathering sorties. II (AC) Squadron from Marham have just taken over from 617 'Dambusters' squadron, who carried out nearly 200 sorties during their three-month tour - and PO James Carlill was at the heart of the deployment.

PO James Carlill.jpg
PO James Carlill
(Navy News photo by Sgt Si Pugsley RAF)

PO Carlill was until recently second-in-command, managing day-to-day tasking in the Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing detachment, interpreting imagery collected by the RAF to provide intelligence for Afghan led ground forces. He said: "It has been very rewarding because the feedback has been very, very positive - we've been making a difference to operations on the ground by giving analysis to prepare for missions:"

PO Carlill has been able to bring a wealth of naval experience to the role. He said: "I have worked in intelligence at sea and with my experience in joint intelligence courses I can see how manyprinciples of intelligence and imagery analysis are common across maritime and air operations."

Another dimension of cooperation comes from Lt Cdr Kevin Thomas, who we featured in the March edition of Navy News. The officer was a meterologist in the RN from 1981 to 2009 before joining the RNR and is now based with 902 EAW. From an airfield in the Middle East he supports the flight plans for the RAF's Sentinel surveillance aircraft.

"When taking off and landing as close to civilian airports as we are here, the aircrew need good forecasts of cloud cover to plan routes with sufficient levels of visual contact with the airfield," said Lt CdrThomas. Deep local experience on the regional weather and sea states is particularly useful. "Wave height information is important for operations where small skiffs and fishing vessels are concerned," he said.

Lt Cdr Garreta concluded: "From a defence point of view, the time of operating as a single Service is well and truly over - if it ever existed."
Lest we forget:

Sea King baggers in Afghanistan Jun 2014.jpg
Col Jamie Roylance RM, Commander of the Joint Air Group,
thanking 857 personnel for their service

(RN website photo)​

RN website 4 Jun 2014 said:
More than 40 tonnes of drugs, 170 tonnes of home-made bombs and 150 insurgents have been seized thanks to the Royal Navy’s eyes in the skies of Afghanistan. In five years of unbroken commitment to the Allied cause on the ground, Sea Kings of the Airborne Surveillance and Control force – normally based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall – have played a key role in locating insurgents’ arms caches, tracking drugs shipments and following the movements of insurgents.

The helicopters – dubbed ‘cloudwalkers’ by Afghans – were originally designed to provide Royal Navy task groups with early warning of air attack. But their powerful radar has proved to be just as potent over land, with aircrew able to follow movements on the ground – directing Allied troops and security forces to make arrests and seizures...

Since arriving at Camp Bastion five years ago last month, the veteran helicopters have completed 2,000 sorties and 9,000 hours – the equivalent of 375 days – flying over Afghanistan. In doing so, they have helped with the capture of:

  • 150 insurgents
  • 40,000kg of drugs (40 tons)
  • 172,000kg of ammonium nitrate used in home-made bombs (169 tons)
  • 3,000kg of home-made explosives (3 tons)
  • 4,500kg of weapons (4½ tons)
  • 50 Rocket Propelled Grenades
  • 40 AK47 rifles
  • 20,000 rounds of ammunition
With the British presence in Helmand reducing, the Baggers’ role there is under review as the force looks to return to its maritime roots.


Lantern Swinger
Putting aside the press "local boy makes good" stories, Naval Communicators [Telegraphists/Radio Operators] have been involved in EVERY war/conflict/contretemps/standby since 1942 when COBU units were formed, morphing to Naval Gunfire Support units .............. always at the sharp end and rightfully deserving their "combined Operations" badge that others have also purloined. Probably not generally known is that a RN Sparker [Stan H] was in the vanguard of the attack that saw Col H win his postumous VC on Op Corporate. So yes, Jack Tar has always shown the way.
Last edited: