Sailor home for Christmas after one of Navy's biggest deployments
Able Rate Bryony Wilcock, who grew up in Dewsbury and attended Earlsheaton Technical College, was deployed on the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, on her first operational deployment as part of the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group.
The task group’s journey began in May with a farewell from Her Majesty the Queen and has seen the task group sail from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Mediterranean, across the Indian Ocean, into the Pacific and back again.
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s operations included launching the first F-35 sorties from the Mediterranean north in to the Black Sea, while also sending jets east in to Iraq and Syria on six to seven hour missions in support of Op SHADER and responding to Russian air incursions.
AB Wilcock, 26, who now lives in Wakefield, is a writer in the ship's office on board HMS Queen Elizabeth.
She said: “My primary role is mainly admin and HR tasks, but I am really keen to get back to a nursing role, as I worked as a care worker in the local community before joining up and really enjoyed it.
"I have my board for selection as a naval nurse next February.”
AB Wilcock did not start the deployment on the carrier, but she says it has been an adventure in itself.
“I originally started the deployment on HMS Richmond (a Type 23 Frigate which has accompanied QE for much of its journey), but I was flown to HMS Queen Elizabeth for treatment for a slipped disk.
"Because of Covid containment, what should have been a two day stay turned into a five and a half month stay, and I haven’t been back since!”
She added: “I have managed to get involved with the Role 2 medical teams onboard, which will help me prepare even better for my transfer to nursing next year.”
AB Wilcock has also been involved in documentary film maker Chris Terrill’s latest series covering the historic deployment, which she says “has been interesting, funny, and also embarrassing!”.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has steamed nearly 48,000 nautical miles, which has taken her to the other side of the world and back again.
The task group has exercised and engaged with more than 40 different nations during her time away including the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Oman and Singapore to name a few, as well as demonstrating the capabilities of the modern Strike Group to other on-looking nations.
“I have really enjoyed this deployment, being able to visit Montenegro with HMS Richmond, where we undertook a 32km bike ride, as well as visiting Guam (three times) and a flying stop in Japan and Singapore, where we weren’t allowed ashore due to Covid, but I’m sure would have been great places to visit."
AB Wilcock joined the Royal Navy, in her words, “because I loved the idea of travelling and working, but mainly the job security, and the bonds you build. It really is like nothing else."
She said: “The things I most miss about being away from home have been small things like driving around to someone’s house and popping in for a cuppa.”
She is looking forward to being back home for Christmas, having spent most of her career so far based in Plymouth or deployed.
She said: “I am planning to get back home ASAP and hibernate for a couple of days, then get out, spend time with family and friends, and see how the UK has changed since lockdown: I might even be able to go to the cinema!”
“I just want to be able to do normal things like walk around outside with a coffee in the morning and feel fresh air on my face."