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Royal Navy Failed to Save British Couple

November 13, 2009


Recently in the news was the kidnapping of a British couple from their yacht in the Gulf by Somali pirates. Details from the Sun reveals that a British warship was on the scene during the event:

Supply ship RFA Wave Knight was sent to intercept the pirates as they grabbed Paul and Rachel Chandler from their yacht, it was revealed last night.
The crew – 75 merchant seaman and 25 Navy sailors – were under orders NOT to fire in case the hostages were caught in a gun battle or murdered on the spot.

The account from a crewman, who has asked not to be named, contradicts the official version…

Retired civil engineer Paul, 59, and wife Rachel, 55, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were seized three weeks ago.

I am not sure of what circumstances the RN auxiliary warship was under orders NOT to fire to save the couple from harm. It begs the question that when a government is legally obliged not to defend and protect their citizenry to the utmost, what is to become of us?

We often see in our civilian courts, over the decades laws have been used that appear to give more protection to criminal rights over the victims, “we the people”. This detrimental, even suicidal practice now has entered into our war-making as well, shielding the peace-breakers from the wrath of the peacemakers.


Update-France take the fight to the Pirates

We posted the above story earlier not meaning to disrespect any navy, certainly not the great Royal Navy, which is everywhere fighting for freedom on pretty much a shoe-string budget. Still, it gets frustrating, also here in the states that the world’s mightiest navies can’t seem to get a handle on these most minor threats of piracy, an old and ancient problem. Then they come to ask the public to fund ever more grandiose projects like carriers, missile battleships, or specialized troop transports, for some future obscure peer threat. Not having fought a major war at sea since World War 2, are they certain these are the right ships for 21st Century warfare?

Still, the modern day buccaneers continue on their illegal acts, mostly at will, and the Navy has no answer. “Let’s send a Pirate Buster, and all will be well”, they maintain. One pirate buster built per decade, so far. How is that going to solved the problem of scores to hundreds of attacks annually?

Enough ranting. Now the French are again showing us up on how to deal with those who disparage the laws of the sea and Civilization. From

Tipped off by spotters on a Luxembourg maritime reconnaissance plane, the French frigate Floreal intercepted a dhow towing two motorised skiffs 500 nautical miles north-west of the Seychelles on Thursday (local time).

A helicopter from the warship fired a warning shot across the vessel’s bows as its crew began to throw incriminating material over the side.

French troops boarded the ship and arrested the pirates without violence


28 Comments leave one →
  1. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 15, 2009 7:20 pm

    Here’s another aspect of Somali piracy that has just recently emerged. The entire report should be read.

    The Emergence of ‘Sky Pirates’ in Desperate Somalia

    HARGEISA, 16 November 2009 (Somalilandpress) – Diyaarada way afduuban tahay. The four words, screamed by a mad man wielding a pistol in mid-air, are etched into my memory like lyrics in a veteran singer’s mind. This plane is hijacked.

  2. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 15, 2009 6:37 pm

    Seems like things are getting really & truly horrible for the two British captives of Somali pirates. This is from the Times Online:

    British hostages are refusing to eat or drink, say Somali pirates

    The British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean are ill and refusing to eat or drink, according to one of their captors.

    The claim will renew concern about the wellbeing of Paul and Rachel Chandler, and comes after it emerged that the crew of a Royal Navy vessel watched helplessly as the couple were taken hostage from their yacht Lynn Rival on October 23.

  3. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 15, 2009 3:55 pm


    Your idea for information exchange is already in effect for commercial vessels, I believe. I’m not so sure how truly secure, encrypted communications could be enabled on privately operated yachts.

    As to embarked security aboard private yachts, well – make it a team of at least three trained individuals (one simply isn’t enough). Perhaps Gurkhas with maritime experience would make the best guards of luxury yachts and similar vessels.

  4. November 15, 2009 5:28 am

    Earlier post I said both “Ruler’s” I meant “Wave’s.” Silly me!

  5. Hudson permalink
    November 15, 2009 12:59 am


    Thanks for the correction. I was writing from memory, no quick Wiki. As you get older… Generally, I applaud France’s aggressive anti-pirate actions.


    If such doesn’t exist already, someone should put up a website that would serve two purposes. Pleasure boaters like the Chandler’s could post something like the following:

    “Wanted: One bloke with military experience. Speaks English, good-natured. In return for protecting our 47-foot yacht, we offer free luxury voyage in tropical waters, chef-cooked meals with complimentary drinks. Leaves Liverpool on the 7th, returns on the 29th. BYOW (bring your own weapon). References required.”

    Once at sea, the couple might change dates and course to fool the pirates who, of course, would follow the website daily. Unarmed boats might list what risks they would allow naval vessels to take to rescue them. “Take the shot if you have it. Otherwise, contact our relatives.”

    The other purpose of the website would be to provide contact between shipping companies, individual ships and captains, and the naval command set up to coordinate the many navies involved in anti-pirate operations. This would be heavily encrypted. The merchant vessels would list their cargo, men aboard, weapons, if any, i.e., water hoses, pistols, automatic rifles; rules of engagement, their route, and other relevant information.

    So, a naval vessel patrolling a swath of ocean could instantly pull up a map of what ships are in the area and how it might deal with a possible pirate attack.

    What do you think?

  6. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 15, 2009 12:02 am


    French Commandos have operated against Somali pirates on several occasions (at least three, that I can think of).

    Only one individual (not two), i.e., the owner / captain of the French yacht Tenit was killed in that particular assault by French Commandos. Two Somali pirates were killed in the rescue of the five crew and passengers (three pirates were captured and taken to France for prosecution).

    April 9, 2009 incident off Somalia,_2009_incident_off_Somalia


    Then French forces killed one Somali pirate and took six others as prisoners in an action to retake the yacht Carre d’As.

    French commandos storm yacht to free couple held hostage by Somali pirates

    Carré d’As IV

  7. Hudson permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:14 pm

    Hello tangosix,

    Thank you for the post and links you provided. I think each of us was speculating about what actually happened and what it was possible to accomplish. I could not open the Sun link when I posted. Now I can. It is unclear from the article how close RFA Wave Knight was to the boarded yacht. It seems that the pirate mothership was 50 feet from the yacht, not Wave Knight.

    In any event, the mariners and Navy sailors were ordered not to open fire, so even if they were armed and ready and had a good shot, the ROE forbade them from doing so. Whether the sailors “did everything possible to save them” (Chandlers), as the Sun insider was quoted as saying, is open to question. The captain was doing the maneuvering; the sailors and crew did stand by and watch.

    As you might have noted, I brought up the prior incident where two French civilians were killed in a fire fight with pirates in a French rescue attempt aboard a yacht, so clearly I was not advocating willy nilly violence. And of course, I do not think for a split second that offering tea and blankets would have stopped the pirates, but that it might have been a useful gesture. Apparently, the crew and sailors of the RFA Wave Knight, which as you pointed out, had intervened in pirate attacks in the past, did not or felt it could not, even do that.

  8. November 14, 2009 6:11 pm

    Hello Hudson,

    this is the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Knight:

    As you can see,she is a fleet tanker.

    Here is her webpage:

    As you can see she has intervened in pirate incidents in the past.

    Have a look at the boat full of pirates and hostages on that page,here:

    Now imagine two British hostages in that boat with the pirates.
    The boat is moving up and down with the waves.
    Wave Knight is moving up and down with the waves.
    It is night time and the pirate vessel has refused to stop.

    That is the situation you are suggesting Wave Knight should have opened fire in.
    Had they done so the hostages would almost certainly been killed.

    However,they certainly did not just stand and watch.
    They did spend three hours trying to stop the pirate vessel without opening fire on it,as they had been ordered not to.
    I cannot see how offering hot tea and warm blankets would have persueded the fleeing pirate vessel to stop and hand over it’s hostages.

    Not opening fir may have looked bad but killing the hostages in an ill thought out rescue attempt would have looked even worse.


  9. leesea permalink
    November 14, 2009 3:15 pm

    Mike wrong again! RFA ships are classed as Naval Auxiliary NOT warships quit mixing ship types. They have for some time been armed with the RN sailors who are part of the crew operating defensive weapons onboard. The helo det is also RN.
    You don’t seriously think a slow oiler could have caught up with a fast boat?

    But your point about questionable ROE is well taken. Were are the Royal Marine Commandos who specialize in hostage rescue? The French are showing up the Royal Navy again!

    P.S. merchant mariners or seamen are referred to as mariners.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 14, 2009 2:33 pm

    To the poster who I deleted.

    Always welcome criticism. Can do without the cursing.

    As for your concerns, I didn’t write the article that broke the story, the UK Sun did. Just giving my opinion, as you were. If the Wave Knight wasn’t a warship why was it “under orders” and also armed?

    I mean no disrespect to the fleet, but my concern is more toward the victims, who are suffering more right now than hurt feelings. The real culprits here besides the pirates are the polticians who have allowed this to go on thus far.

  11. Hudson permalink
    November 14, 2009 12:05 pm

    Jed: Exactly. Yet one wonders what kind of assistance RFA Wave Knight was prepared to render. Don’t military vessels carry small arms? I can tell you that at 50ft., even in the dark, an average marksman can hit a man-size target with a rifle. Apparently the British vessel just stood and watched. No hot tea, warm blankets, nothing at all, apparently, was offered or given.

    Mike has a point too–it looked bad. This episode brought to mind the ’07 incident in the Persian Gulf, in which Revolutionary Guards (pirates) hijacked 15 British marines and sailors under the noses of the British warship that had dispatched them to inspect cargo in the Gulf. A 4.5 shell sent over the Guards’ heads might have been appropriate, but the Brits were caught off guard and stood and watched. After being slapped around in a hellhole prison for a few weeks, the seamen and female sailor were released by smiling President Imadimjob. Tony Blair said that patience and diplomacy had won the day. The Brits have seldom looked so weak.

    And one has to wonder about the couple sailing blissfully in their luxury yacht in such dangerous waters. What were they thinking? Just more of God’s fools at sea, it seems.

  12. Jed permalink
    November 14, 2009 10:12 am

    Yes Hudson and the French were actually special forces, but there is no reason to believe there are any special forces operators on the RFA Wave Knight and the Fleet Air Arm sailors who man the ships flight would not normally have ‘sniper’ rifles with them, so I am not sure what they would have had a ‘clear shot’ with. As already described the other ‘sailors’ are merchant marine who may have been trained to use the 30mm canon in anti-small boat / anti-air defence, they are not going to be shooting at anyone unless the vessel itself comes under attack.

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 14, 2009 6:44 am

    Hudson, you may be right, but this looks bad for the Navy. Imagine what the hostages were thinking as they saw the Queen’s ship sitting doing nothing while they were dragged down. But we won’t know their feelings until they are released, we pray safe.

  14. Hudson permalink
    November 14, 2009 3:42 am

    If sailors aboard Wave Knight were armed and ready and had a clear shot at the pirates aboard the Chandler’s private yacht, and did not take it because of ROE, that would be one thing. If they did not have a clear shot, then the ship’s cannon and machine guns hardly mattered. Reportedly, this incident took place at night.

    French forces boarded a French private yacht under similar circumstances a year ago and the boat’s captain and one hostage were killed in the gunfire with the pirates. Sometimes caution is the better part of valor.

  15. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 13, 2009 9:58 pm

    Well, if true – then this is going to prove to be quite interesting! Where was this ship actually hijacked by pirates and where was it headed? Just who would be receiving a load of cruise missiles in the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Sudan, Yemeni rebels, or Somali Islamists of Al-Shabaab with Al-Qaeda connections, perhaps)? Who was actually shipping them (a state to the northeast of the Straight of Hormuz, perhaps)? What would be the end purpose of such weapons being made available along the coast or in the waters of the Gulf of Aden or the Indian Ocean? But then, of course – it is being published by The Sun…

    Pirates hijack cruise missiles

    PIRATES have seized a cargo ship full of CRUISE MISSILES – and are demanding £2million ransom.

    The Somali bandits opened fire on the Al-Mizan as it sailed along the east African coast with the illegal haul.

    Read more:

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 13, 2009 7:30 pm

    Matthew, such vessels have become irreplaceable, designed in the Cold War, their replacements have become too expensive to risk in waters like these. Even old, under-armed vessels have their place on the firing line against pirates, like the USN’s ancient Perry’s.

  17. Matthew S. permalink
    November 13, 2009 7:27 pm

    Hey Mike, that is a sweet ship. The French navy has done a good job of keeping small ships like that around.

  18. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 13, 2009 7:17 pm

    Thanks DE! The French keep showing us up, at least in the anti-piracy mission.

    The Floreal frigate is a neat non-exquisite design, proving you don’t need battleships to take down a pirate.

  19. Matthew S. permalink
    November 13, 2009 7:14 pm

    “Armamaent-two 30 mm cannon; four 7.62 mm machine guns; fitted for but not with two Vulcan Phalanx”

    My favorite phrase “fitted for but not with”.

  20. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 13, 2009 6:08 pm

    The Yemeni Coast Guard captured eight Somali pirates earlier today.

    Coast Guard captures 8 pirates in Gulf of Aden [13/November/2009]

    ADEN, Nov. 13 (Saba) – Yemen’s Coast Guard has seized eight Somali pirates in the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden.

    A spokesman for the authority said Friday the pirates were captured on a fishing boat with two RPGs and small and medium weapons.

    A ladder, believed to be used to get onboard attacked ships by the pirates, was seized with the Somalis who were apprehended in the area of Amran, he said.

  21. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 13, 2009 4:49 pm


    Pictures of the French Navy’s interception and capture of those twelve Somali pirates can be found at the following link (text is in French). Note in particular the aerial image of the ‘mothership’ with its extended tow of the two skiffs (three, in line). The photos can be clicked on for larger format viewing. The ‘mothership’ appears to be carrying at least sixteen 55-gallon drums of fuel (2,500 liters are noted, so that would seem to agree with 800-plus gallons of fuel as would be found in sixteen 55-gallon drums). And it does seem rather interesting that twelve pirates could inhabit such a small, open ‘mothership.’

    Atalante : le Floréal intercepte des embarcations suspectes

  22. November 13, 2009 4:05 pm

    RFA’s are merchant ships which allows them to enter other nation’s territorial wars without permission (unlike a warship.) {A bit simplified that….}

    There armament is purely defensive as dictated by international law.

    Both of the Rulers have been pressed into service to cover for gaps in the escort “fleet” in the less dangerous stations such as the West Indies.

    RFA officers can take the PWO course. And I am lead to believe that one RFA first office (PWO qualled) actually served as group gunnery office for a NATO deployment. He just happened to be on exchange at the time.

  23. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 13, 2009 2:41 pm

    Tangosix, from the link:

    Armamaent-two 30 mm cannon; four 7.62 mm machine guns; fitted for but not with two Vulcan Phalanx
    Aircraft carried:1 Merlin helicopter with full hangar facilities

    Also “Wave Knight is able to operate in support of amphibious forces, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations and protection of vital sea areas and shipping.”

    As I said, an auxiliary warship. A “Queens Ship” right?

    Some Random Dude-Its the same over here. As you say, sad.

  24. Jed permalink
    November 13, 2009 2:27 pm

    As per TangoSix, most of the RN personnel ‘routinely’ aboard an RFA would be the ships flight, i.e. Fleet Air Arm aircew and maintainers and I don’t know if Wave Knight was carrying an Merlin or a Lynx but either a 7.62gpmg or 12.7mm hmg may have been useful if the aircraft could have got between pirates and civvies – once the pirates had them, no use at all.

    Also storming a pirate mother ship is not the same as hostage rescue.

  25. November 13, 2009 2:21 pm

    Hello Mike Burleson,

    The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (R.F.A.) Wave Knight is not a Royal Navy (R.N.) warship.
    She is a civilian manned fleet oiler with a handful of naval personnel aboard and very little ability to intervene in a hostage situation without putting lives at risk:


  26. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 13, 2009 1:46 pm

    Well, the French Navy knows how to act proactively.

    French navy storms pirate ship, arrests 12

    FRENCH commandos have stormed aboard a Somali pirate “mothership” and arrested 12 gunmen, the military announced, adding that the gangs are increasingly operating in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean.

    Tipped off by spotters on a Luxembourg maritime reconnaissance plane, the French frigate Floreal intercepted a dhow towing two motorised skiffs 500 nautical miles northwest of the Seychelles on Thursday.

    A helicopter from the warship fired a warning shot across the vessel’s bows as its crew began to throw incriminating material over the side. French troops boarded the ship and arrested the pirates without violence.

    On board they found grappling hooks, GPS navigation devices and assault rifles, French military spokesman Admiral Christophe Prazuck told AFP in Paris.

  27. Some Random Dude permalink
    November 13, 2009 12:47 pm

    Pathetic PC loosers are running the show. Sad.


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