BRNC Cadets bring aid to the Philippines

  • Author: admin
  • Date: Monday 9th December 2013
BRNC Cadets bring aid to the Philippines BRNC Cadets bring aid to the Philippines BRNC Cadets bring aid to the Philippines

Officer Cadets from Britannia Royal Naval College have been part of the massive humanitarian and disaster relief operation in the Philippines following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

The group of 36 Cadets, who joined the Royal Navy in May 2013, are currently undertaking their initial fleet time training embarked on HMS Illustrious.  The ship has been deployed from the UK since August as part of the UK’s high readiness maritime Response Force Task Group autumn deployment - Cougar 13.  HMS Illustrious was re-tasked to take part in the relief effort and arrived in the Philippines on Monday 25 November to start the hard work of assessing the areas of most need and distributing the aid.  The Cadets have been fully involved in the operation, working alongside the Ship’s Company and the Royal Marines.

Officer Cadet Matt Wells, aged 24, from Yateley, said:  “I went ashore with a recovery team to Calagnaan Island to clear roads and paths. The typhoon had uprooted most of the trees and de-foliated the ones that were left standing. It was absolutely devastated. The locals are very tough and resourceful though and had done what they could but the scale of the task was just too great for them. They were really glad to see us and when we had finished a young mum wrote a really lovely thank you letter. It was really humbling. It was much worse that I had expected. There was simply nothing left of some of the houses. It’s going to take them years to fully recover. We left tools and building supplies so that they can carry on rebuilding. I hope we have at least helped them on their way.  This is exactly why I joined the Royal Navy. I am shocked that this happened so soon in my career, but if another opportunity to help people like this comes about, I will jump at the chance.”

Officer Cadet Nicky Fradley, aged 23 from Blandford, was also deployed to Calagnaan Island.  She said:  “The people on the island lead a very simple life and have learnt to survive with the basics, but they are all incredibly happy. One young boy ran up to us, asked us our names and then spent the rest of the day shouting them out at the top of his voice and giggling as he did it. I didn’t expect to see any concrete buildings, but there were a couple. The church was still standing even though everything else around it had been blown down. When we arrived, the locals had already tidied up as best they could. Around 70 per cent of the fishing boats were destroyed. They have just enough boats and nets left to fish for their own survival, but nothing to sell on to buy new nets.”

The ship distributed around 500 tonnes of aid under the direction of the Department for International Development (DFiD) which includes 12,500 blankets, 20,000 candles, 30,000 rice bags, 9,800 tins of sardines, 8,100 tins of vegetables, 17,000 shelter kits, 1,000 jerry cans and 1,900 water carriers.

Officer Cadet David Rigby, aged 25, from Cirencester, said: “I went ashore to Sicogon Island to assist in a food distribution centre. DFiD ran the centre and were meticulous in assessing who needed what and in sharing the food out equally. We provided a basic but balanced diet in food packs that were designed to support a family of five for up to one week. We also provided pots and pans to the church and the community centre and several tarpaulins to allow the locals to repair their roofs. Everyone was so polite, calm and patient. It was obvious that they were in need, but they all queued and waited their turn. They were so grateful that they all wanted to shake our hands and say thank you. I have a very vivid memory of a young toddler peering through a window who made a point of saying hello to everyone.  The village I was in was a scene of utter devastation. One or two of the more substantial buildings were just about intact, but that was all. They had no shelter from the midday sun and the torrential rain. It should have been miserable, but they seemed to be taking everything in their stride. The people really are very self sufficient. We gave them some tarpaulins to build shelters. I turned my back briefly and literally within five minutes they had erected a frame and secured the tarpaulin to make a very tidy tent. I have absolutely no idea how they managed to do it so quickly I have learnt a lot about human nature in a very short time, especially the need to remain optimistic in the face of adversity. I’ll remember this experience for the rest of my life.”

The 23,000 ton aircraft carrier was re-assigned to the Philippines shortly after the Cadets joined, stopping off in Singapore for 48 hours en-route to pick up supplies.  The Cadets helped embark around 500 tons of emergency relief stores through the night.

Officer Cadet Fradley said: “Trucks lined up on the jetty beside the ship. There was a tremendous amount of stuff to load onto the ship. We were clearly going to be very busy.  It was really hard work in very hot and humid conditions. We worked overnight and had most of the aid onboard within the first 24 hours. The hangar was effectively converted into an aid warehouse. It was amazing to see.”

The Cadets are due to return to BRNC n time for their passing-out-parade on December 19th.

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