Braunton sailor is Royal Navy’s weatherman

Joseph Bulmer

Former Pilton schoolboy Chris keeps one eye on the sky – and the other on the sea – as part of the navy’s efforts in Libya

A ROYAL Navy sailor from Braunton is playing a key role as a weatherman in a major deployment to the Mediterranean and Middle East, including supporting international efforts to protect civilians in Libya.

Leading Seaman Chris Edmonds started his working life as a lifeguard at the Ruda Holiday Park in Croyde. Now aged 27, he is currently serving as a meteorological advisor onboard HMS Albion, Flagship of the Royal Navy.

The 18,500 tonne Devonport-based assault ship is leading the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, a maritime quick reaction force consisting of ships, helicopters and Royal Marines.

“My role is to assist in compiling briefs and weather forecasts and to calculate how different weather will affect the ship’s programme, operations and sensors”, said Chris.

“I help gather data through various different means, including launching weather balloons into the atmosphere and observing whales, dolphins, and other sea life, so it’s really interesting work.”

At the end of May, the Task Group was diverted from a multi-national amphibious exercise to the Libyan coast. In an effort to increase pressure on Col Gaddafi, Apache helicopters from HMS Ocean were launched against selected military targets ashore, whilst HMS Albion acted as the floating command platform directing and guiding the Task Group.

“The meteorological advice we provided is used by the command to decide whether a mission can go ahead or not,” added Chris.

“During the Apache missions we were close enough to see the lights along the Libyan coastline. Luckily the meteorological office is one of the few compartments on the ship that has a porthole.”

Chris, who studied at Pilton Community College and North Devon College, added: “I studied geography at college and have always been interested in nature and the environment. I’d wanted to travel and the Royal Navy enables me to do this whilst holding down a good job.”

The Royal Navy has taken Chris around the world. Highlights include drug busting in the Caribbean onboard the frigate HMS Iron Duke; a spell down in the South Atlantic guarding the Falkland Islands; and energy security patrols in the Gulf on board HMS Cumberland.

He has also served at Royal Naval Air Stations at Culdrose in Cornwall and Yeovilton in Somerset, where collecting and interpreting meteorological data is crucial to flying operations.

HMS Albion and the Task Group will shortly head through the Suez Canal for a series of engagements designed to strengthen the UK’s relationships in the Middle East.

For Chris, however, North Devon remains home: “My family still live in Barnstaple and I enjoy walks along the North Devon coast whenever I come home.”