The Face of British Foreign Aid: A justification for dedicated Disaster Relief ships
On 6th February 1975, Hurricane Gervaise swept over the island of Mauritius, causing widespread destruction, killing ten of the inhabitants, injuring many more and making thousands homeless. Two days later, on 8th February, the American fleet support ship USS Camden arrived and immediately sent teams ashore to help recover the situation. Two days after that the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau arrived and offered help followed the day after, on 11th February, by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which took control of the disaster relief operation from the Camden.
As the 1st mate aboard a British cargo ship, I visited the island a few months later and spoke to several of the locals about the effects of the hurricane and the efforts required to put things right. They regaled me with the way the Americans had come in with their combat helicopters, re-installed the toppled communication masts, distributed food, fresh water and other aid around the island and how teams of American sailors came ashore to help with medical aid and the reconstruction effort to house the displaced. Even the French had offered a hand. Then with a curl of the lip they described how, several weeks after the event, a lone British frigate had turned up and asked if they could be of any assistance! I still remember that my feeling at the time was one of shame.
Defence UK Director, Fred Dupuy, was the young Merchant Navy Officer concerned. Click on the button for the rest of the article which includes proposals for the answer to this issue.
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