A SNIPPET

Portland, the dreaded Portland you may say, but why? I was a Sea Rider on FOST's staff and I was always very kind to all my customers. Portland was used as a work-up facility {a BOST - Basic Operational Sea Training} and as a COST [Continuity Operational Sea Training] for many navies with the RN taking over 80% of the available work-up slots.  Little wonder then that on the 13th January 1968 STANAVFORLANT [Standing Naval Force Atlantic], a NATO Squadron was first formed at Portland. OST {Operational Sea Training} was started at Portland in 1958* and the very first Officer-in-Charge was Captain Peter Gretton OBE DSO DSC RN, whose later career as a Vice Admiral ended through illness. He was Knighted with a KCB. I served with his son {below}

Lieutenant Michael [Mike] Gretton R.N., in the frigate Rothesay 1970/71, a former Captain of HMS Invincible, who like his father finished as a Vice Admiral, his honours being the CB and the CVO.  Peter Gretton was relieved by a Rear Admiral {Rear Admiral W.G. Crawford} at the back end of 1958 who became the very first FOST [Flag Officer Sea Training], the rationale being that the Officer-in-Charge must be senior to all commanding officers of ships under training, and the only ship in the Fleet with an admiral as the commanding officer was the Royal Yacht which wasn't really affected by the Portland 'work-up'  Scheme.

In 1959, the Fleet Canteen at Portland which had every conceivable facility including acres of sports pitches was closed down, and the main building [restaurant, snooker rooms, table tennis tables, quiet room, library, cinema] was converted into an air station for helicopters with the first squadron having whirlwind choppers.

In 1999 [21st July] FOST shifted from Portland with its excellent training facilities [easy access to the open sea - and on-tap naval airport and boat routines to and from the work-up ships, to Plymouth {flies his Flag in HMS Drake the RNB}, a much more restrictive training environment getting to the open sea [although with deeper water and the western approaches nearby once there] where a couple of helicopters based at Plymouth civilian airport ferried the sea-riders out to ships for SOO-TAXI'ing. Rear Admiral John Tolhurst was the last FOST at Portland {and the first at Devonport of course} and left in the frigate Argyll for Devonport. This exit also saw the closing of Portland as a naval base. In my day as a Portland sea-rider, far more than two choppers were airborne at any one time.  Additionally, Plymouth and Portsmouth were equidistant from Portland and ships nominated for BOST or COST could easily be visited for a briefing before they arrived at Portland. The last ship which used Portland for her Operational Sea Training was the frigate HMS London.   

* Following on from STANAVFORLANT in 1959 came STANAVFORCHAN inaugurated at Ostend in 1973 and STANAVFORMED came to the fore in 1992.

Whilst on the subject of 'things that splash in the oggin', a la, ships, I was quite surprised to research that in 1976, when I was on FOF2's Staff in the Flagship Tiger and our Group, Group 6 [TG 317.6] went away for an eight month deployment around the world, that the next Group wasn't until 1986, ten years later [Global '86} when the Flagship [HMS Illustrious] broken down at the very beginning and caught up with the main body a long time later, after having had a 4M repair job. Another wait period, this time of fourteen years, passed before the next Group {NTG2000} did a major deployment, the flagship being the frigate Cornwall wearing the Flag of Rear Admiral Meyer as COMUKTG [Commander United Kingdom Task Group]. God knows how the staff coped in a tiny frigate, as I recall that we were always 'pushed' for space in our flagship's which were either the cruisers Tiger or Blake or a DLG.