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Cornwall Joins Ebola Battle

ebola RFA Argus
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9:39am 10th October 2014

Drafted in to help stop the spread of ebola: helicopters from RNAS Culdrose.

Three Merlins from the Helston base will be on board Falmouth's RFA Argus when she sails to Sierra Leone.

That could be as soon as this weekend.

The Mark 2s will ferry doctors, experts and aid workers to hard to reach places.

After a meeting of the Government's COBRA emergency committee, chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron, to discuss the worsening virus crisis in Africa, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that the UK armed forces were ramping up their efforts.

The helicopters and auxiliary ship will be used first and foremost to help medical efforts on land, where Britain's Armed Forces are playing a pivotal role in tackling the crisis.

Mr Fallon said more troops would be dispatched to support engineers, logisticians and planners already on the ground to support the construction of the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Unit, while additional personnel are being sent to support an Ebola training facility run by the World Health Organisation.

With the commitment of the extra resources, more than 750 British Servicemen and women will be involved in the effort to curb the spread of the disease. Personnel from RNAS Culdrose will be joined on RFA Argus by Royal Marines of 1 Assault Group to provide protection for the ship and the personnel aboard.

Merlin helicopters from RNAS Culdrose  Merlin helicopters from RNAS Culdrose

Captain Mark Garratt, Commanding Officer of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose said: "Culdrose will embark three Merlin Mark 2 helicopters and 80 personnel from 820 Naval Air Squadron as well as a 50 strong cadre of the Maritime Aviation Support Force on board RFA Argus as she deploys to the West coast of Africa.  

"The inherent flexibility of the Merlin, the Navy's latest Anti-Submarine helicopter, acting in a transport and utility role from afloat, will mean that medical operations ashore can be fully supported. Our people are fully committed to this vital role."

Thanks to her impressive medical facilities - including wards for up to 100 patients, an operating theatre and intensive care/high dependency units - Argus also has the capacity to support medical efforts currently provided by UK personnel ashore in Sierra Leone.

Captain David Eagles is RFA Argus' Commanding Officer.

He said: "The deployment of RFA Argus is a clear sign of the British Government's commitment to the region and will underpin operations ashore.

"We'll be embarking Culdrose-based Merlin helicopters and Royal Marine Commandos before heading down to West Africa."

A soldier from south-east Cornwall is already in Africa. 

At home, Mark Crocker from Menheniot near Liskeard is based with The Royal Engineers.

Now the 41 year old is part of a special team, building a treatment centre in Sierra Leone.

ebola mark crocker

He said: "It's a great opportunity, as the team Warrant Officer, to see the intensity and the impressive work done by the locals here."

Speaking about his first impressions of Sierra Leone, Mark said: "What took us by surprise is how beautiful the countryside is; it is really lovely."

9:39am 10th October 2014

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