Teenage sailors play a role in Libyan conflict

Pictured (L-R) are ABs Luke Watson and William Mallinder on board HMS Liverpool.
Pictured (L-R) are ABs Luke Watson and William Mallinder on board HMS Liverpool.

TWO teenage sailors from Doncaster have spoken of how they came under fire from Colonel Gaddafi’s troops during the conflict in Libya.

William Mallinder and Luke Watson have completed 100 days on patrol with the Royal Navy near North Africa as part of the conflict which has seen rebel troops virtually overthrow the dictator.

Forces aboard the destroyer HMS Liverpool, including the two 19-year-olds, have moved to actions stations approximately 30 times as they prepared for gunfire and rocket attacks. They have been engaged directly by pro-Gaddafi forces seven times and fired themselves on ten occasions.

Both men are communication information specialists on board the 5,000-tonne warship where they are responsible for a variety of tasks within the warfare department.

William, of Ansten Crescent, Bessacarr, has been with HMS Liverpool for two years. He has played both rugby union and rugby league for the Navy and was part of a multi-national task force group that deployed to North America last year.

The former McAuley School pupil who would like to transfer to the Royal Navy’s elite diving branch in the future, said: “Nothing can actually prepare you for the feeling of taking part in real-time operations, no matter how well trained you are.

“The adrenalin rushes through your system and you are really alert. This has been the most exciting part of my career to date.”

Luke Watson, of Finningley, has been in post for just one month though he joined up two years ago. He lives in Wroot Road and attended the Hayfield School.

Luke said: “It’s been an amazing few months. When you do your training you never believe that you would have to do it for real.

“It’s been the highlight of my career in the Royal Navy so far. When I finished my training, my first draft was the then fleet flagship, HMS Ark Royal and I was deployed to the coast of America on a NATO exercise. It was sad when she was decommissioned, but I’m looking forward to doing well on board HMS Liverpool.”

Liverpool’s commanding officer, Commander Colin Williams, added: “When we took over from HMS Cumberland, the besieged city of Misurata was under imminent threat of collapse. Since then we have seen the rebels push the pro-Gaddafi forces back, allowing humanitarian shipping access to the port, and a semblance of normality to return to this troubled region.”