The quick-thinking actions of the crew of HMS Sutherland saved the life of a deer as it struggled to paddle across Plymouth Sound.
The animal was spotted by the bridge team of the frigate and a boat was put in the water to pluck the roe out of the water and ferry it back to shore, where it was returned to the wild.
SAFE in the arms of PO Andrew Rodgers, this is a deer plucked from Plymouth Sound by the alert crew of HMS Sutherland.
The animal was struggling to make it back to dry land on Saturday evening when it was spotted struggling, some 200 yards off the frigate’s port side.
AB Oliver Barnford, on watch on Sutherland’s bridge, saw something moving – and on closer inspection realised it was a deer in distress.
That prompted an immediate response from the Fighting Clan’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Al Wilson, who ordered his ship launch a sea boat to rescue the boat.
In minutes, a team of Surg Lt Nick Healey – about as close to a vet as any member of the ship’s company – plus Chief Bosun’s Mate PO Rodgers, and LS Kieran Woodward and Perry Hayward were in the Pacific 24 heading for the animal.
They succeeded in carefully lifted the roe out of the water and into the boat, before ferrying it to Fort Picklecombe, near the village of Cremyll in Cornwall – where there just happens to be a deer park – and released it back to the wild at around sunset.
A rather blurry shot taken from Sutherland's sea boat of the deer struggling to make for land
PO Rodgers, who was a keeper at Dartmoor zoo for five years before joining the Navy, used his past and present skills to calm and stabilise the deer, while Surg Lt Healey offered his medical oversight.
“After leaving Dartmoor Zoo I did not think I would be looking after animals again, however, I am glad today that I was onboard and was part of the team that saved the deer’s life,” said PO Rodgers – known appropriately enough as Buck.
Surg Lt Healey added: “Having recently joined the ship where we have been conducting intense sea training with simulated casualties, the ability to save a real casualty – albeit one with four legs – was hugely rewarding.”
The ship was mid-way through pre-deployment training for her impending east of Suez deployment when the rescue took place.
The team from the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation have spent the past three weeks preparing the 200-strong ship’s company for every eventuality: fire, flood, pirates, humanitarian aid, natural disasters, board and search. The works.
Well, not quite every eventuality.
Demonstrating the versatility of the personnel onboard the ship; the rescue highlighted that the crew of the ‘Fighting Clan’ who are more used to dealing with pirates and potential enemy on the high seas were able to switch from a high intensity training package prior to deploying to the Middle East in July to rescuing a deer.
“I was really pleased that my team managed to rescue a wild animal that was in extreme distress and return it to its natural habitat,” said Cdr Wilson.
“It is obvious that the deer was so fatigued that it would not have survived much longer and would have drowned before reaching the shoreline. What the rescue demonstrated was the versatility of my sailors – they’ve obviously benefited from the current period of FOST training.
“They showed flexibility, quick thinking and teamwork to adopt to an unfamiliar situation and apply what they have learned to that environment, whether it be as coxswain of the seaboat or applying first aid principles. It was certainly an unusual end to a Saturday night at sea!”