CHESTER’S adopted warship HMS Albion has joined international efforts to increase pressure on Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

The 18,500 tonne assault ship, which is flagship of the Royal Navy, is serving as a floating headquarters for Commander UK Task Group (COMUKTG).

While the focus of the media has been on Apache helicopters operating from HMS Ocean to strike at targets ashore, the crew of HMS Albion have thrown themselves into the role of supporting and coordinating Royal Navy warships involved in NATO’s Operation Unified Protector.

HMS Albion’s commanding officer, Captain James Morley, said: “HMS Albion is the most versatile and useful ship a commander could wish for, ideally suited to planning and directing joint operations at sea, in the air and over land. She is the Royal Navy’s flagship and her ship’s company train day-in, day-out for precisely this kind of front line role.”

Leading Seaman ‘John’ Major who works in the combined operations room said: “HMS Albion can do anything from building the intelligence picture, providing detailed meteorological and oceanographic analysis or even just making sure that all the ships are in exactly the right place at the right time.

Able Seaman ‘Hazel’ Kiely added: “Albion’s principal warfare officer co-ordinates the position of ships and supporting aircraft, making sure that it is safe to move the ships towards the coast.

“ The warfare team on the front desk work flat out to build the surface and air picture, nothing should approach the task group that is not identified and classified”.

While the cutting edge combined operations room is a hive of activity, elsewhere on the ship everyone has a part to play. AB ‘Gangsta’ Smith joined the Royal Navy in 2007 and this is his first experience of serving in an operational environment.

He said: “From the bridge at night we could see the explosions ashore and we know that this will have an effect on Gadaffi’s forces”.

HMS Albion, has a civic affiliation with the City of Chester and the ship’s crew has paraded through the city to receive the freedom of the borough.

The ship is linked with 22nd Cheshire Regiment, the Albion Inn in Chester, Claire House Hospice, Land Rover and Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port.