Naval brothers reunited off Malay peninsula after seven months apart

Two brothers were reunited thousands of miles from home when their ships met off Singapore.

26-year-old warfare specialist LS Conor Lovett was flown to French assault ship Dixmude when she encountered HMS Sutherland on the latest leg of her Far East tour.

And for the past few months the French vessel has been home to a detachment of British Wildcat helicopters from 847 Naval Air Squadron.

Among the aircrew in the latter, one PO Kieran Lovett – allowing a brief reunion for the pair, from Southminster in Essex on the French warship.

While Sutherland’s Wildcat helicopter practised landings and take-offs, and the operations room teams on the British and French carried out joint exercises, Conor was given a whistle-stop tour of the Dixmude by his 30-year-old brother and the Lovetts caught up on family news and deployment stories – the siblings hadn’t seen each other for seven months.

“It was pretty cool meeting up with my brother considering we’re both in such different parts of the Navy,” said Conor.

“He’s obviously been doing a lot of flying in his Jungly Wildcat. It was also good flying in our Wildcat and being shown some of the capabilities as my last flight was in a Lynx, which was a lot more basic.”

It was pretty cool meeting up with my brother considering we’re both in such different parts of the Navy

Leading Seaman Specialist Conor Lovett, HMS Sutherland

He wasn’t the only sailor from Sutherland – into the second half of a deployment to Australasia and the Far East – to hop across to the Dixmude.

Sub Lt Helen Crisp was invited to join Conor, reward for a commendation she received from Commander British Forces South Atlantic during her previous job.

“The Dixmude’s ship’s company was incredibly welcoming and it was a great opportunity to get an insight into the way the French Navy operates, even if it was a short visit,” she said.

“It was impressive seeing her escort, the Surcouf, conduct RAS approaches whilst the Dixmude was conducting flying operations.”

The link-up gave the 847 NAS pilots from RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset a chance to practise landing their Wildcat AH1 on the much smaller and lower flight deck of the Type 23 frigate.

By contrast Sutherland’s Wildcat HMA2 crew found the towering height and vast expanse of the Dixmude’s flight deck an intriguing change.

“It was excellent training landing on a foreign ship with all the planning considerations we had to factor in,” said the Fighting Clan’s Wildcat pilot Lt Jimmy Burrows.

“It is experiences like this that allow us to operate with other nations at short notice if required. Personally, it was useful building up my understanding of what is required to make these cross-deck sorties possible.”

Sutherland’s Flight Deck Officer, RPO Alex Llewellyn, and his team enjoyed the chance to work with the slightly different version of the new helicopter. 847 fly a battlefield model, used to carry out reconnaissance missions for the Royal Marines, while the frigate’s helicopter is a dedicated naval variant.

“It was good to meet up and work with the Flight from 847 Sqn so far away from home,” Alex said.

“We are used to working with a Wildcat so there were some differences for the Flight Deck team to adjust to such as no deck lock and using chocks. It was a real training benefit for both of us and proves that The Fighting Clan’s Flight can operate with multiple nations and a variety of aircraft with ease.”

The 847 detachment has been aboard the Dixmude with two helicopters and around 30 personnel since the ship sailed to the Pacific back in February…one month after Sutherland left Plymouth on her Far East/Pacific Rim mission.