SAILORS from Sunderland and Seaham are back on home soil after helping in the fight to bring freedom to Libya.
Petty Officer Air Engineering Technician Keith Armitage and Leading Aircraft Engineering Technician Barry Purdue were serving onboard the destroyer HMS Liverpool as it exchanged fire with pro-Gaddafi forces off the coast of the war-torn Middle East country.
Keith, who returned to the UK after more than seven months at sea, has been helping keep the vessel’s helicopter in the air.
The former Monkwearmouth Comprehensive School and City of Sunderland College pupil said: “As part of the ship’s embarked flight, I look after one of the ship’s most valuable assets, the Lynx Mark 8 helicopter.
“I’m involved in servicing and maintaining electrical generation and distribution systems, which power all of the complex radar, radio, navigational and weapons systems on the aircraft.
“It’s a challenging job, but satisfying.”
Keith, who joined the Royal Navy in 1997, has lived in Sunderland all of his life.
“I was always keen to join the Royal Navy from an early age and was convinced after watching the Harrier display at the Sunderland Air Show – it was mesmerising,” said the 32-year-old.
“Working on aircraft on the back of a ship whilst it’s rolling and pitching may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it certainly sorts the men out from the boys.”
Seaham-born Barry, 30, joined the Royal Navy in 1998 and is now based in Portsmouth.
However, his grandmother, aunt and uncle still live in the County Durham town.
“My job is to deal with all things electrical and radio related on the Lynx aircraft, but I’m also the survival equipment supervisor, the flight regulator and Health and Safety representative,” said the former Seaham Comprehensive pupil.
“My dad was in the Army for some 20 years, so I was used to service life and knew the benefits of it.
“However, the Army wasn’t for me so I joined the Royal Navy and have never regretted it for one moment.”
HMS Liverpool helped maintain an embargo on Libya, with the warship closing deep into territorial waters and providing shore bombardment using its 4.5 inch gun.
The Lynx helicopter took part in “search and strike” operations under cover of darkness and prevented attacks from fast-moving rigid inflatable boats.