Four dozen sailors joined their RAF and Army comrades on a parade through the nation’s capital as MPs thanked them for the contributions in Libya last year.
Some 120 personnel from the three Services paraded through the heart of London before attending a reception in Parliament.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Abbie Herron, RNAS Yeovilton
STRIDING forcefully past the Palace of Westminster’s iconic Clock Tower – popularly known as Big Ben – Cdr Colin Williams leads a contingent of 49 sailors through the nation’s capital.
The Naval personnel – drawn from nine warships, submarines, squadrons and auxiliaries – formed two fifths of a parade of Servicemen and women invited to march through London and into Parliament for a reception honouring their deeds off and over Libya last year.
In all 16 Royal Navy units were involved in the crisis in North Africa – from the first days of the humanitarian evacuation at the beginning of 2011 (courtesy of vital contributions from HMS Cumberland and York) to the fall of the last pro-government strongholds in the autumn.
Personnel enforced a UN arms embargo to the Gaddafi regime, choreographed the complex air campaign, kept the sea lanes open by clearing mines and struck at the belly of the beast with strikes from Tomahawk cruise missiles, Army Apache gunships from HMS Ocean, and the main guns of HMS Sutherland, Iron Duke and especially Liverpool.
To mark their contributions to the campaign – codenamed Operation Ellamy – the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces invited a representative sample of personnel to the seat of government.
Cdr Williams, who’s just left HMS Liverpool now that she’s decommissioned, was the platoon commander for the Naval contingent. As well as his former shipmates, personnel from HM Ships Ocean, Triumph – the submarine which fired Britain’s opening salvo in the conflict courtesy of her Tomahawks – Sutherland, Bangor, Brocklesby, 815 and 847 NAS and RFA Fort Rosalie took part in the parade.
They were joined by nine soldiers and 60 RAF air and ground crew, plus a Royal Air Force band.
The parade was followed by a private reception in the Terrace Marquee overlooking the Thames where parliamentarians and senior military officers were able to talk with service personnel and listen to their experiences.
“It was astonishing to see so many people out on the streets between Wellington Barracks and Westminster. We were cheered all the way. It was a very proud and enjoyable experience, one I will remember for a long time,” said Lt Phil Barron of 815 NAS in Yeovilton – and Flight commander of HMS Liverpool’s Lynx during the campaign.
The Ellamy veterans were hosted by James Gray MP, Chairman of the All Party Group for the Armed Forces.
“When troops march into Parliament for a welcome home, they are applauded in by parliamentarians and staff,” he said. “Politics are put to one side, arguments forgotten, while we honour those who serve and are prepared to sacrifice for their nation.”
His group aims to promote a better understanding within Parliament of the UK’s Armed Forces. It is supported by the three Services, who provide speakers at monthly breakfast meetings, Service dinners, and annual keynote speeches by the Service head. Each Service is also permitted two Parliamentary ‘welcomes home’ per year.
“The welcome homes we offer to troops returning from operations are Parliament's way of saying ‘thank you’ for all that our Armed Forces do in our name,” explained John Bercow, Speaker of the House.
“The response of Members of Parliament and Peers is a testament to the high regard in which we hold them, and our respect for their service.”
The parade also saw a flypast over the Commons by the RAF: one E-3D Sentry and one Sentinel aircraft from RAF Waddington, flanked by Typhoons and Tornado GR4 jets.