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Dunkirk 2 Publicity Stunt?

April 20, 2010

Desperate times call for desperate measures. It seems Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown whose Party is up for reelection might have jumped the gun in his replay of the Dunkirk evacuation, this time involving volcano ash instead of the Luftwaffe. Story from the Times:

Mr Brown said the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the helicopter carrier Ocean would operate from the Channel ports. “I expect Ocean to be in the Channel today. I expect the Ark Royal to be moving towards the Channel later,” he said. Experts estimated that the Ark Royal could carry about 1,000 civilian passengers on each sailing and Ocean up to 2,000. With crossings taking approximately three hours and a further hour each end for boarding and disembarking, the ships could manage three crossings a day. This would equate to 9,000 of the 150,000 passengers being rescued daily…


Tim Fish, a maritime analyst at Jane’s Information Group, questioned the wisdom of using the warships. He said: “They are very large platforms but it does sound odd to use them as ferries. They are not comfortable by any means. They are not ferries so they will take longer to load and unload in port but they have a large enough capacity to get thousands of people on board for a quick trip across the Channel.”
Cross-Channel ferry companies also said they were coping with the additional passengers and had “plenty of spaces” to get holidaymakers home.

At Think Defence, they are saying what we all are thinking:

I am now taking bets on when the first ‘we are an island’ pundit appears on the news making a case for CVF.

 The USN might also argue their $6 billion supercarriers are more “cost effective” as ferries than the British $3.7 billion vessels. I’m just saying…


19 Comments leave one →
  1. michael permalink
    April 21, 2010 4:19 am

    Please do not accuse me of trolling,you are confusing that with me asking to my mind a straightforward question.
    Perhaps my style is a little to direct and could be misconstrued but I am not trolling, merely asking for clarification for something I did not understand and still don’t.
    The question was ‘Was this a publicity stunt’ on Gordon Browns part in connection with the upcoming British general election.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 20, 2010 8:37 pm

    More British Commentary, this time from the Daly History blog:

    “Between the three ships we are looking at a lift capacity of somewhere in the region of 3,000 people. However according to the BBC, there are somewhere in the region of 150,000 British nationals stranded around the world – a drop in the ocean indeed. Given that a run from northern Spain to the south of England will take the best part of a day, the three ships will make an almost microscopic dent in the backlog of Brits needing help.

    Not only that, but the three ships represent almost all of the Royal Navy’s large assets – having them removed from duties dents the capability of the Royal Navy. They are not designed to carry large amounts of people, in the same manner as a roll-on-roll-off ferry or a cruise liner. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary does possess four Bay Class Landing Ships which would be ideal, but they are very stretched indeed.”

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 20, 2010 7:03 pm

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using the military for this purpose, if it is expedient, and they certainly have the resources, more than most. I was just using the British sources who pointed out it was unnecessary.

    I don’t mean to kick anyone when their down, or get involved with the elections there in a sovereign country, but after Think Defence did the carrier quip, I couldn’t resist.

    My pet peeve, carriers, but back to LCS tomorrow, a promise. Hope you’ll be here!

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 20, 2010 6:54 pm

    Pauline, I always get in trouble when I mess with politics. Probably did you a favor!

  5. D. E. Reddick permalink
    April 20, 2010 6:02 pm


    Congratulations! 700,007 hits at 6:00!

  6. RabidDegu permalink
    April 20, 2010 4:04 pm

    Yes, it’s just hot air and blather. Sorry to go political, but Mike *did* ask if this was about PR, after all! Brown’s notorious for claiming successful grand gestures that turn out to be completely hollow. (For instance, delivering helicopters to Afghanistan several years late because the Taliban ‘only recently stepped up violence’, as he claimed in last Thursday’s election debate.)

    On Brown’s televised advice of 19th April, thousands of Britons stranded in Europe and Asia have headed to Spain today to be carried back to the UK by hundreds of coaches that he promised would be waiting for them – only the government then forgot to book the coaches. Seriously. Some people travelled thousands of miles for a coach pickup that never existed, and are only now being desperately looked for. (For non-UK residents, go to Sky news and type in ‘Brown coaches Spain’; or similar at The Guardian.)

    As to the Royal Navy ships: only a few hundred people have been picked up so far, and Brown’s had a week to arrange something. It’s a fraction of a percentage point of the actual problem. You’d think our glorious leader could at least have arranged some kind of commercial shipping service in the week people have been waiting. In a continent as well supplied for ships as Europe is, we shouldn’t *need* the navy to step in. Civil servants should have arranged stopgap measures days ago. I’m not slating the navy, but I am slating the government’s response. And from what I hear, senior admirals are unhappy at being used as ferries.

    It’s all pretty much as the Times notes in its online story, ‘Royal Navy not needed as ferry companies keep Calais moving’. Brown’s like our very own boggle-eyed, antidepressant chomping version of Christina de Kirchner.

  7. D. E. Reddick permalink
    April 20, 2010 2:40 pm


    Alternatively, perhaps it is time to learn to love lutefisk. ;-) Seriously, is there still fresh produce available following the last few days of suspended air transport? Hope you have access to lots of canned peas, carrots, and corn…

    BTW, totally OT – but at 2:30 the hit count for New Wars was 699,444. I expect that we’ll surpass the 700K count at around 5:00 this afternoon, or a bit later. Mike’s choice of topical subjects does appear to be continually excellent.

  8. Bill permalink
    April 20, 2010 2:11 pm

    Funny..because since I am sitting in my office each day of late, staring at a harbor full of “Skjold’ MTBs, you can bet that the thought of taking up a collection to cover costs of fuel for a quick return to the states has most certainly crossed my mind. ;-p

    Anybody want to help a stranded fella out that has also got a spare 50 grand or so that is just burning a hole in their pocket?

  9. D. E. Reddick permalink
    April 20, 2010 2:04 pm




    My point is and hopefully would continue to be that there are potential consequences of this situation that the questionable actions of politicians can in no way effect. Summer snows, freezes, failed crops, and starvation – anyone? It happened just 194 years ago (1816) across portions of the northern hemisphere. Think of the maritime shipping response necessary to deal with this sort of situation if it happened right now, today. Amphibs and their rotary dets would become invaluable in conducting support of maritime sealift. And airlift like C-5s, C-17s, and commercial air cargo carriers would likely suffer from highly constrained flight conditions and opportunities (as is now evident across northern Europe).

    Year Without a Summer

    Mount Tambora

  10. Hudson permalink
    April 20, 2010 2:01 pm

    Speaking of Dunkirk, who thinks Hitler halted the advance of his armor and Army Group B for operational or strategic reasons (lack of fuel, save the army for a future fight)? Or, that for personal–sentimental–reasons, Hitler showed his sporting side and decided to give Churchill a gift in letting the BEF and French forces escape from the beach?

  11. April 20, 2010 1:31 pm

    “Sorry but your point is what?”

    His point is to disseminate interesting information to his fellow commenters.

    Please don’t troll, its nice here, let’s keep it that way.

  12. April 20, 2010 1:28 pm

    I can’t see the problems of using the RN. The LPDs and Ocean are designed for combat loaded Marines to move about with ease. I think the can cope with a few tourists. The LPD has an overload capacity of 700. On a quick channel run I don’t the civilians will mind a bit of discomfort. And Jack and Jill we rise to the occasion as always.

  13. michael permalink
    April 20, 2010 1:27 pm

    D.E. Reddick.
    Sorry but your point is what?
    The post is about politics not history,we all know that volcanoes are unstable and that super vocanoes are more unstable than others.
    We are at this moment talking about the situation in Europe rather than any situation that happened millions of years ago.
    I am by no means a follower of Gordon Brown in fact I despise socialist politics but at the moment I can’t discern any difference between Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
    If your post is supposed to encourage the general public to think,then you have failed.

  14. April 20, 2010 1:01 pm

    Great post Mike. I’m on the fence about this one, though.

    I seriously thought about posting on this little weekend fiasco over at Triple P but now you have taken the wind out of my sails. I’ll return to wooden ships and iron men with the consolation that the old saying may have some truth to it: great minds think alike.

  15. Matt permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:59 pm

    Call me naive, but I just don’t see the problem with using HMS ALBION and BULKWARK for these missions. Non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) have long-been recognized as an important use for naval power.

    These ships and their crew are in effect a ‘sunk cost’ to the British taxpayer. If not otherwise operationally committed, why shouldn’t they be used?

    Mike, do you truly think anyone in the Navy is contemplating using a NIMTZ or FORD class for NEO? You can see that historically we’ve used amphibs for that task.

  16. D. E. Reddick permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:40 pm

    Leaving aside the Gordonian politicking aspects of this Icelandic volcanic eruption, there are other things to keep in mind when volcanoes erupt. Examples might be: the 1815 AD eruption of Mount Tambora; the circa 72,000 BC Mount Toba eruption; the several eruptions of the Yellowstone Supervolcano; and the truly ancient series of volcanic eruptions which formed the Deccan Traps over 60 MYA and covered half of the Indian subcontinent.

    Iceland and the Volcano-Greenhouse Theory

  17. michael permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:26 pm

    Of course at a time such as this it could be seen as an election gambit but I don’t think so.
    If anything the British government has left it too lat (as usual) this should have been activated at least two days ago. If it takes three days to get together the governments emergency planning team (COBRA) then we have lost before we start.
    Then again if the Prime Minister had gone in straight away the opposition would have been screaming that this an attempt to sway the electorate,he waits too long and he is letting the electorate down.
    The opposition are in a win,win situation.
    Just for the record at the time of writing, Ark Royal and Ocean are both on standbye and are not activley taking part in any evacuation.
    As of this morning one of our assault ships,sorry I can’t remember if it is Albion or Bulwark is berthed in Santander (northern Spain) and is embarking elements of ‘The Rifles’ who have just completed a six month tour of Ahfganistan and ended up in Spain via a circular route under the ‘Ash cloud’
    I am sure that they are gratefull for the Royal Navy providing them with transport home to be reunited with their loved ones.
    The vessel is also taking onboard any UK citizens who happen to be stranded in Spain after holidays abroad etc.
    It’s nice to know that we still have the ships to carry out such emergency evacuations,and I sincerely hope the politicians take not though I very much doubt it.


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