Local sailor is in the thick of the action

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A YOUNG sailor from Arbroath is playing a key role in a major Royal Navy deployment to the Mediterranean and Middle East, including supporting international efforts to protect civilians in Libya.

Connor Ferguson (18), pictured, began his working life at McKay’s Jam Factory. He now finds himself serving as a marine engineering technician onboard HMS Albion, flagship of the Royal Navy.

The 18,500 tonne assault ship is currently leading the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, a maritime quick reaction force consisting of ships, helicopters and Royal Marines.

Connor, a former Arbroath High School pupil, said of his role: “I am part of a team that’s responsible for electrical and mechanical equipment, including propulsion, machinery, lights, sewage, water and the state of the ship’s hull.

“I joined the Royal Navy because it would give me experience in a trade and a sense of responsibility. My dad does engineering, so I thought I’d give it a bash.”

In addition to engineering, Connor is also part of an emergency team that is trained to respond to fires, floods and battle damage.

He explained: “I’m the ‘attack BA’, which means I will be among the first on the scene of a fire. During my basic training, the simulators for fires and floods were brilliant. They were the best things I’d done.

“We would enter a small compartment where we would either have to fight a raging fire or prevent a flood. It was all very loud and realistic, especially when the lights went out and we had to work in darkness. It gets the adrenaline going.”

At the end of May the Task Group was diverted from a multi-national amphibious exercise to the Libyan coast. In an effort to increase pressure on Colonel Gaddafi, Apache helicopters from HMS Ocean were launched against selected military targets ashore, whilst HMS Albion acted as the floating command platform directing and guiding the task group.

“It was a really busy time for everybody on the ship because we were working in defence watches, which is a high state of readiness. I could see distant fires on the Libyan coastline,” Connor stated.

Celtic fan Connor joined the Royal Navy in 2010 and completed his basic training at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall before undertaking specialist training at HMS Sultan in Hampshire, after which he joined HMS Albion.

Now Connor, HMS Albion and the Task Group have passed through the Suez Canal for a series of engagements designed to strengthen the UK’s relationships in the Middle East.

He went on: “My friends and family have all backed me to the hilt on making the choice to join the Royal Navy. It’s good to get out and see some places, and get paid for it. Not to mention that the Response Force Task Group is for a good cause in my opinion.”

Captain James Morley, commanding officer of HMS Albion, said: “The Response Force Task Group is the UK’s maritime quick reaction force and has capabilities that make it ideally suited to the pace and unpredictable nature of world events.”