RFA Tidesurge sponsor takes the helm

Taking the helm of RFA Tidesurge, the third of four 39,000-tonne tankers – second only in size in the naval inventory to HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales – is Joanna, Lady Woodcock, the huge tanker’s sponsor.

She joined the new auxiliary for two days at sea – her third visit to the ship, and one very much hands-on.

Typically the role of sponsor – akin to being a godmother, bestowing good luck and divine protection over a ship and all who sail aboard – involves attending ceremonial events, occasionally dropping in on the vessel to catch up with sailors on progress and events, while the ship’s company write regular updates describing activities.

Lady Woodcock, whose husband served as Second Sea Lord between 2015 and 2018, flew out to South Korea for the official naming ceremony (all four Tides were built at the Daewoo yard) in August 2017 and re-visited the vessel 12 months later, now in Falmouth where Tidesurge underwent her military conversion.

Having the opportunity to sail with the ship and to get to know the crew certainly gave me a better insight into the role of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Lady Woodcock

As well as being Tidesurge’s guardian, Lady Woodcock is also a wife, mother of two, owner of three gun dogs, and is a member of the Independent Monitoring Board for Ford prison near Arundel, monitoring day-to-day life in the prison ensuring proper standards of care and decency are maintained.

None of which is quite as much fun as driving a £113m military tanker through the Irish Sea. In addition to taking opportunity to steer the ship, Lady Woodcock also acted as ‘batman’ at the replenishment point, signaling to HMS Defender as the destroyer prepared to take on fuel.

“I really enjoyed my time on RFA Tidesurge and I’m proud to serve as Lady Sponsor. Having the opportunity to sail with the ship and to get to know the crew certainly gave me a better insight into the role of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

“After many years of being left at home whilst my husband went to sea it’s be wonderful for the roles to be reversed.”