A SAILOR from Doncaster has been on the NATO front line supporting forces off the coast of Libya.
Royal Navy diver James Oakley has been keeping sea lanes secure as part of the crew of the mine hunter, HMS Bangor, for the last three months.
His ship has been operating close to land and under constant threat from artillery fire from troops loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.
The Sandown Class Mine Countermeasure Vessel has conducted six different operations in the region, ensuring that the waters around Misrata port remain clear from mines and that vital humanitarian aid reaches the Libyan people.
Manning their posts in heat of over 35 degrees Celsius for six hours at a time, the sailors have to remain constantly vigilant for incoming threats.
It is a task that takes incredible strength of character.
James, aged 25, a trained mine clearance diver who also operates some of the vessel’s mini guns and general purpose machine guns, said: “The body armour and helmets are very heavy and the stress this causes in the extreme heat is unbelievable.
“It feels awesome to play such an integral part in ship’s safety. We do our best to maintain a 360 degree cover at all times – it’s satisfying to know that you’re playing your part in helping to keep your shipmates safe.
“I joined the crew just before Christmas last year and HMS Bangor is my first ship in the Royal Navy. I’ve learned so much in such a short time.
“I have been manning the ship’s weapons while we were mine hunting just yards from Misrata Port and have been involved in a replenishment at sea with Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Orangeleaf.”
“The ships were so close together and still travelling at eight knots. It was scary to be close to another ship whilst underway, but the Captain held his nerve and we got through it safely.
“It’s a good feeling, knowing that I am making a real difference to the civilians in Libya.”