Navy warship rescues troops and civilians

Hundreds of Britons stranded by the air chaos were heading home on board a Royal Navy warship tonight.

HMS Albion left Santander in northern Spain at lunchtime carrying more than 450 troops returning from Afghanistan and about 280 holidaymakers.



Among those on board were a group of teenage boys on a football tour and Stanley Johnson, the father of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was held up returning from a trip to the Galapagos Islands.



Mr Johnson senior said he was "absolutely thrilled" to be on his way back to Britain, adding: "You could say it is a bit of Dunkirk spirit."



The troops returning home from Afghanistan included soldiers, members of IX Squadron RAF, which operates Tornado jets and is based at RAF Marham, near King's Lynn, Norfolk, and medics from 33 Field Hospital based in Gosport, Hampshire.



Caught up in the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud that grounded flights across northern Europe, they flew first to Cyprus, where they had to wait before flying on to Spain to be picked up by HMS Albion.



Major Angus Henderson, 40, of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, said he wanted to get back to Britain to see his wife and three small children and attend the funeral of a young comrade killed in Afghanistan.



He said: "How many modes of transport have I been on? I have lost count now - planes, buses and now ships."



Some of HMS Albion's crew have given up their berths for the travellers, but others will have to sleep on camp beds below deck. The menu on board is said to include fish and chips and curry.



The ship is expected to arrive in Portsmouth tomorrow night.



Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced yesterday that another two Navy vessels, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and commando helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, had also been deployed to rescue British travellers stuck on the Continent.



But these ships are still awaiting orders - and ferry companies say there is no shortage of space on their routes from France to Britain, although many services from Spain are now fully booked.



A Ministry of Defence spokesman said today: "As the Prime Minister made clear this morning, the Government is looking at a number of ways to help British citizens stuck abroad get home.



"HMS Ocean and HMS Ark Royal are poised and ready for tasking if directed.



"In the meantime HMS Ocean is making use of the time by conducting routine training in the English Channel and HMS Ark Royal is preparing for her next deployment off the south coast of England."



This is not the first time the UK has mounted a seaborne operation to recover stranded Britons.



Hundreds of small boats helped the Navy to evacuate more than 300,000 Allied troops from around Dunkirk in northern France in May and June 1940 after they were cut off by German forces.



In July 2006, UK warships, including the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and the commando assault ship HMS Bulwark, were involved in rescuing about 4,400 people, including more than 2,500 British nationals, from Lebanon during the war between Hezbollah and Israel.









HMS Ocean and HMS Ark Royal are not currently needed but they will remain on standby ready to bring British travellers home from northern European ports, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.



He told the BBC: "If they're needed, we think it's prudent to have them on standby in case there is an extra demand or when there is an extra demand so that every available option is being used to get people home.



"I think it's right that since we're urging British people who are on the Continent to make their way to the northern ports, that we ensure that once they get there they're dealt with as quickly as possible.



"Fortunately, there's significantly increased ferry and train capacity, and at the moment that is sufficient.



"But if it isn't, we'll make sure that HMS Ocean and HMS Ark Royal, if needed, are used."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas