SAILORS serving on Sunderland’s adopted warship received a glowing review of their efforts in war-torn Libya.
HMS Ocean was dispatched in May to help United Nations’ efforts to protect Libyan citizens as pro-democracy forces battled with troops loyal to leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, paid a special visit to Ocean to praise the crew for the significant part they played during operations.
He told them: “What you did in Libya,and the way you have responded over the last few months have been in the best traditions of the service.
“Not only have you done great work operationally, but you have broken new barriers professionally, particularly with the Apache.”
Gen Richards added: “The name of HMS Ocean is held in high regard back in the UK and you should be proud, and deservedly so, of what you’ve achieved.”
Apache attack helicopters flew from HMS Ocean, whose officers and ratings were granted Honorary Freedom of the City of Sunderland in 2004, alongside RAF Tornado and Typhoon aircraft to deliver additional precision-strike capability.
The vessel is the Royal Navy’s largest warship and its only dedicated helicopter carrier.
In June, two £40million Apache WAH 64Ds obliterated a key radar and communications centre and killed Libyan soldiers who fired at them from the back of a pick-up truck.
Other priorities of the ship included protecting innocent civilians who had found themselves in the midst of armed conflict.
They were also on stand-by to evacuate any British nationals should that be necessary.
The ship and crew’s efforts contributed to the successful Nato-led Operation Unified Protector, which ended at midnight on October 31.
HMS Ocean’s captain, Andrew Betton, said: “I am immensely proud of all the personnel serving in HMS Ocean.
“Everybody has worked tirelessly to contribute to our evolving mission, so having the opportunity to brief the Chief of Defence Staff on our recent activity was an honour.”