Castle Roland


by Ken Barber


Chapter 13

Published: 8 Apr 14


"HMS Mersey, This is INS Cyclone. What is your position?"

"Cyclone, our position is 10 North 40 degrees 47 minute 54 seconds 51 East 24 Degrees 98 minutes 47 seconds."

Travis was standing in the doorway between the two bridges. "8.34 Nautical miles West South West."

I looked at Travis "Sound General Quarters."

"Aye, Sir"

I walked over to the map as Barker was marking the positions. I called to Travis. "Captain King, can I see you for a second?"

Travis walked over. "What are you thinking?"

"They are backed into a cove. We could launch our marines and Monsoon's marines; have them cross this strip of land and approach from the south. Cyclone can approach from the northeast, create a spectacle, and draw their attention. The Marines can assault and retake Clyde while we engage and disable the other two ships."

"Use EMP missiles?"

"Yes, but only just before the marines get into range."

"Sir, Monsoon, Hurricane and Cyclone report at General Quarters."

"Thank you. Send the mission specs over to the other ships. Get me Mersey on the line. Cyclone move to assist Mersey. Monsoon, launch air support with marine detachment."

"Aye sir, I have Mersey on comms."

"Mersey, this is Cyclone. We are moving to assist. Be advised we have air assets approaching from the south."

"Roger that Cyclone. We will attempt to draw their attention north for your support."

I quickly got the frigate Captains and the Marine lieutenant on the radio and gave them a short briefing. Captain Marsh recommended he take command of the convoy during the mission. I looked over at Travis and he nodded. The Marines were already in the air and approaching their targets. Cyclone was just out of visual range.

"Miller, tell the helicopters to keep their distance until Cyclone has visual range."

"Aye, Sir."

"Sir Cyclone reports visual weapons fire."

I grabbed the bino's and looked out to the horizon. I could see flashes of light.

The radio jumped to life "Unidentified Vessel, this is USS Freedom. Identify yourself and change course immediately"

Travis grabbed the radio. "Freedom, this is INS Cyclone, we are an armed commercial security vessel. We are moving to assist HMS Mersey."

There was a pause for a minute. "Cyclone, this is Freedom. Roger that. Be advised that we have aerial radar and reconnaissance in place. Have your comms do a link up, and we will transmit the data. We have intell that suggests there are friendly hostages on board the Clyde, Cyclone these are high value hostages. Do not, I repeat, do not engage the Clyde, Cyclone, you are the only friendly assets in range to assist Mersey."

"Roger that Freedom. Be advised we have air assets approaching from the south to assist. We plan to retake the Clyde. Can you give us live thermals of the Clyde?"

"Roger that. Sending data. Switch to frequency 45.8"

"This is INS Cyclone on 45.8"

"Cyclone, this is Watchdog. We are over the engagement area and sending data."

The video screen switched to a thermal image we could see three ships all charging after one. The screen identified the Clyde and The Mersey.

"Watchdog, this is Cyclone. Climb to 15,000 feet; we are about to launch EMP warheads."

"Roger that and standby."

I was watching the screen and grabbed the mike, "INS Air Group, drop marine detachment and back off. Once electronics are disrupted, engage unknown target Bravo."

"Roger that, Cyclone. Marines are deploying."

"This is Watchdog. We are on station at 15,000 feet. "

I looked over at Travis. "Launch EMP"

"Aye, Sir. Weapons fire EMPs and begin flare pattern. Make the sun shine, boys."

I saw the launchers flare off the starboard side of the ship and three missiles streaked towards their targets. Immediately afterwards, the flare launcher began pumping out flares at an incredible rate.

"This is Watchdog, Damn, Cyclone, you know how to make an entrance. Three friendly vampires in bound. Direct hit on target Alpha. Direct hit on Clyde. Negative hit on target Bravo. Clyde and Alpha are dead in the water. Bravo is turning to engage Cyclone."

"Froggy, this is Cyclone. Begin your assault. Watchdog, we need the most detailed picture you have of Clyde. Air Group engage Bravo. Mersey, engage Alpha. Cyclone, run across the bow of Alpha."

"INS Air group engaging."

"Mersey, turning to engage."

A very soft voice came over the radio. "Cyclone, this is Froggy. We are at Clyde's stern and ready to begin our assault."

"Roger that, Watchdog. Label friendly marines Foxtrot 1-12."

David walked in and put a head set on "Froggy one, this is Cyclone X-ray. I have you on thermals; be advised as soon as you clear the stern ladder, there is a shooter eight meters to your left."

"Roger that."

A brief pause and I saw the two red blobs meld together for a second.

"Target down."

At that moment, I saw a large explosion.

"This is Watchdog, Alpha is going down. Bravo is turning to run."

"This is Mersey; we are pursuing."

I jumped on the radio "INS air, pursue Bravo and engage."

"Froggy, it looks like the hostages are right below you in the stern cargo hold. Hold the stern access hatch and send team one to the portside stairwell. There is a shooter on the stairwell headed for the cargo hold and two shooters in the hold. Send team two to the bridge; five targets on the bridge we cannot identify friendly or foe so mark your targets."

"Roger that." Another brief pause, and I watched our marines slowly spread out. The target on the stairwell fell. "Target down; moving to cargo hold."

"Roger, Team two, you have two targets on the bow and one target in the hall." David was calm and cool. Inside I was terrified but I could not allow it to show.

"Roger. Engaging first target." I saw one of our guys fall down and held my breath. The target went down. "Target down. We have an injured friendly."

"This is Mersey. Bravo is dead in the water, her crew is surrendering."

"Roger that INS Air Group. Stand by to extract hostages and injured from Clyde."

"Roger Cyclone. Taking up station off the stern of Clyde."

"Froggy one, on your right outside the cargo hold. There are twelve people in the hold. I can only identify two hostiles. First is three meters to the left covering the door; the second is five meters behind and two meters to his left."

"Cyclone, Froggy two. Bow targets down; secured bridge access; awaiting further orders."

"Froggy two, hold your position"

"Froggy one, engage at your discretion."

"Roger that; using concussion." The screen blanked for a second and when it returned I could see the two targets down. "Cargo hold secure. We have an injured friendly."

"Roger, Froggy one. Is the Admiral in the hold?"

"Stand by."

"Froggy one, please confirm - do you have the Admiral?"

"That's a negative. Admiral is being held on the bridge."

"Roger that. Secure the hold and move the rest of your team to the bridge. Froggy two, you have at least one friendly on the Bridge."

"Roger, one friendly on the bridge."

"Froggy one in position ready to take the bridge. All Froggy members switch to non-lethal. Concussion and plastic pellets only. Move fast and secure all five targets."

"Froggy one, this is Cyclone take the bridge."

"Roger. Froggy three, five and six, throw concussion."

"Concussions out."

"Go, Go, Go"

It was absolute pandemonium for a few seconds.

"Cyclone, this is Froggy one. We have retaken the Clyde; The Admiral is secure. We have two injured friendlies. Requesting immediate evacuation for injured and hostages."

"Roger, Air Group begin evacuation procedures."

"Miller, call Dr. Matthews and let her know we have multiple injured inbound."

"Watchdog, this is Cyclone. Do you have my convoy on radar?"

"Roger that, Cyclone."

"Keep an eye on them. I am pulling their air coverage to assist in the transport of injured."

"Cyclone will do and, by the way, that was one hell of an operation."

"Thank you, Watchdog."

"INS Cyclone, this is USS Freedom. Gentlemen, on behalf of the United States and the International Anti Piracy task force, thank you for your assistance. I will have additional medical crews airborne in five minutes with a flight time of ten minutes. They are at your disposal."

"Cyclone, this is Cyclone Helo inbound with four wounded marines, two wounded Clyde Crew and The Admiral"

"Roger that. Helo, the flight deck is cleared for your arrival."

I looked at Travis and he was smiling. I looked all around the bridge and everyone was just beaming. I grabbed the loudspeaker mike. "INS Cyclone, this is Admiral Ryan speaking. I want to thank you all for your focus and attention to detail. This was Cyclone’s first combat operation and she, you all, performed in a way that I had not imagined. Because of your hard work and attention to detail, we were able to retake the Clyde and eliminate all the enemy targets. Thank you. Today, Cyclone was victorious."

Cheering erupted all around me. Travis came over and patted me in the back. "Well done, Admiral. Now, let’s go meet the First Sea Lord."

We arrived on the flight deck just as the chopper carrying the injured and the Admiral landed. Lieutenant Locke, the Marine Commander, jumped out first and ran over to us.

"Admiral, Captain, you need to be aware that the hostiles on Clyde where not Somali, they are European with Irish accents."

Travis shook his head. "Thank you, Lieutenant. That makes things a little more interesting."

Cat was standing beside an older, stately gentleman in a ragged looking uniform. Travis and I walked over.

I Saluted. "Lord Admiral Sir Milton Winthrope, welcome aboard the Cyclone. I am Admiral Dale Ryan and this is Captain Travis King. Are you injured, sir?"

He returned the salute. "My ego has suffered more injury than anything else. Who are you people?"

I laughed and Cat excused herself to check on the wounded. "Sir, we are the International Nautical Security Company, a privately owned and operated nautical escort service."

"Well gentlemen, if the owner of your company has any issue with what you just did then you let me know and I will personally stick my bloody boot in his arse."

I laughed again. "I am sure you would Sir, but that's not an issue, I am the owner. Captain King, would you show Lord Winthrope to our quarters and let him get cleaned up while I check on our wounded."

"It would be my pleasure, Sir. Lord Winthrope, if you would come with me please."

The wounded marines were moved to the infirmary. When I arrived, the place was organized chaos. Cat was standing over a marine looking at an X-ray.

"Dr. Matthews, when you have a free second could you give me an update on your patients please?"

She turned and walked over to me. "Three of the Marines are fine, gunshot wounds to extremities. No bone fragments, bullets went clean through. The fourth, Lance Corporal Frie, got hit in the chest, right along the right seam in his body armor. The body armor absorbed most of the impact, but he has three fractured ribs. I am monitoring him now to insure there are no internal injuries. We should get him back to the States as soon as possible. He needs rest and a lot of it. The Clyde crew are being treated for minor cuts and bruises, a couple broken bones and dehydration. They are going to need some serious mental health care."

"Thanks Cat, I will make arrangements with the Brits to transfer all their personnel to them. I can get Frie to the nearest airport and have the company jet come get him. If necessary, could he make the trip to Cape Town?"

"Yes, but I would prefer to get him off the ship sooner. Fractured ribs are not very life threatening, but if he doesn't rest, he could injure himself further."

"Got it, we will get him back to the states ASAP." I walked around the infirmary, stopping to chat with the crew of the Clyde and my injured marines. The Clyde crew was so thankful and kept hugging and thanking us repeatedly. The marines, though injured, were stoic but I got each one to smile and relax a little. After the infirmary, I headed back the bridge.

The Bridge was bustling with activity when I arrived.

"What's the status on the convoy?"

"No issues. Monsoon is still in command. We sent their choppers back."

"Good, then get me Freedom on the radio."

"USS Freedom, this is INS Cyclone"

"Cyclone, this is Freedom"

"Freedom, we have eleven British Navy personnel aboard; all being treated for minor injuries and dehydration. HMS Clyde is secured but is going to have to be towed. We also have four prisoners from the Clyde and Mersey is holding eight others."

"Roger Cyclone. HMS Illustrious is sending choppers to take control of Clyde and to retrieve their personnel. Be advised Clyde had a compliment of twenty-five plus the Admiral and his aides put them at thirty-three. They lost twenty-two souls."

"Freedom, this is Cyclone. Understood. Will standby for Illustrious to retrieve their wounded."

"Thank you, Cyclone."

About twenty minutes later the helicopters from Illustrious arrived and they hustled Lord Winthrope away. We turned over the Clyde and prepared to depart the area. I was standing on the bridge when a thought came over me.

"Captain King, please have your weapons officer prepare twenty-two flares. Fire individually fifteen seconds apart."

Travis had a questioning look on his face. "Aye, Sir."

I picked up the mike and told Miller to get me all the ships in the area.

"All vessels in the area, this is INS Cyclone. Please stand by while we conduct a salute to HMS Clyde's fallen crew members."

"Cyclone, this is Freedom standing by."

"Mersey standing by."

"Illustrious standing by."

"Captain King, begin the salute please."

I walked out on the catwalk and watched as the first flare was fired. As soon as it began burning, a second was launched. Travis came and stood beside me, Shane followed him. The three of us just stood there watching as the flares continued. When they stopped, there was a hush that brought a chill to my spine.

When it was over Travis gave the order for us to get under way. After we got the ship turned around, we noticed that the USS Freedom, HMS Illustrious and HMS Mersey had lined up along our departure route.

Travis turned to Master Chief Billets. "Master Chief, Line the Rail."

"Aye Sir, Line the Rail."

A bustle of activity followed and Travis and I walked together with David out to the Port rail, just as we were passing the Freedom. The crew of the Freedom had lined up on the starboard side railing and saluted us as we passed. Travis and I returned the salute. The same happened as we passed Illustrious and Mersey. We were soon cruising as fast as we could to catch the convoy.

We caught up just as the sun was rising. We took up position and Travis and I were about to get some sleep when we got the message that Cal wanted a video conference with us. Travis and I logged in and Cal and Mike where sitting there with big smiles on their faces.

"Morning, gentlemen."

"Morning, Cal, Morning, Mike"

"I know you had a busy night and probably need some sleep, but we needed to tell you that the US Navy and British Navy both have made press statements regarding what happened last night. They both explained the HMS Clyde had been captured and INS Cyclone recaptured her. They both sent pictures of Cyclone in action to press agencies."

"Wow that was fast."

"The press was already sniffing around about the massive search operation, so they got this out right away to put a positive spin on the issue. You need to know that the First Sea Lord is not mentioned at all and I am led to believe that's the way they want to keep it."

Travis nodded. "Works for us; I will brief all the officers in that regard."

Cal smiled. "We listened to the entire engagement. You two should be proud of yourselves and your crew. You saw a situation and didn't even hesitate. Also, I was shocked that Mersey and Freedom basically let you command the operation. Of course, you really didn't give them a chance to say otherwise. I know I am damn proud of both of you, of the Officers and Crew of Cyclone. You put us in an amazing light for the rest of the world. Thank you to the both of you."

We were both speechless. "Thanks Cal. It all just sort of happened."

"That's how it usually works. Once you guys make Cape Town, refuel and immediately depart for home. Leave the frigates behind. They will be fine making the crossing by themselves. Your presence is requested in D.C."

"Please don't tell me we have to go to a Congressional Hearing?"

Cal laughed. "No, Dale, although it wouldn't surprise me if the idiots in congress did try. The British Embassy is going to have a state dinner in your honor. You should be there."

"That's nice of them. Okay, we will be in Cape Town in a couple of days and then set sail for home."

"Okay, guys. Get some rest; see you soon."

Travis and I both dragged ourselves into our bed and crashed. Sex wasn't even an option.

The rest of the trip was routine and even though we were supposed to leave Cape Town right away, Travis and I decided to give the crew one day of rest. We managed to get a couple of hours of sighting in with Shane, David and Cat. Cat and David had become inseparable and I could tell they were head over heels in love with each other. Shane was definitely missing Rick and spent quite a bit of money on little trinkets for him.

After we left Cape Town, we encountered a pretty severe storm and had to skirt it. I was in awe of the way Cyclone's crew had melded into a team. They handled the storm like the pros they were. After the storm, we hit the open water and Travis got us up to full speed for a bit. We were approaching the Caribbean when we received a weather alert about a tropical storm right in our path. We waited the storm out at sea and then began our final push to home. I could tell that everyone aboard was anxious to get home.

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