Lt Cdr Laon Hulme

Being at the Right Place

It has been said that we are all the sum of our experiences, training and capabilities – to which my dear Wife, Karen (later to be “link wife” for all BRILLIANT’s in the Portsmouth area), would add:
If one then ‘finds’ oneself in “the right place at the right time” to be able to “make a difference”
this is probably part of a ‘Great Plan’.

To appreciate how HMS BRILLIANT – a one year old, Sea Wolf armed, ASW frigate – was able to conduct vital Sea Harrier fighter control force defence duties on 21 May 1982, the day of the landings in the Falklands campaign, is a story of team work, training and true fighting spirit – which started much earlier…..

I have never understood why some liken a modern ship’s Operations (Ops) Room, with its glowing screens and its highly trained warfare specialists – all communicating in (generally) hushed tones through headsets with boom microphones, to be a “Gloom Room”, for this is where the action is in a Royal Navy which is all about power projection and the international influence this brings.

As I sought to specialise, those responsible for my training recognised that I had a talent for exercising three dimensional aircraft control (both fixed and rotary wing) and I soon found myself working with highly professional aircrew whose prime purpose was to project that power.

After qualifying as a fighter controller (FC), consolidation of my air control skills was conducted in the aircraft carrier HERMES and the destroyer HAMPSHIRE before being given the ultimate accolade of being trusted to help train later FC qualifiers as the School of Maritime Operations Course Officer. Subsequently, after qualifying top of the last (ever) long “D” (Direction / Air Warfare) course, I became Operations officer of NEWCASTLE, then a “brand new” type 42 destroyer, before being appointed as the Staff Warfare Office to Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) and directly responsible for the effective functioning of all surface ship’s Operation Rooms.

Then selected for a First Lieutenant appointment and advised that my air warfare experience would ‘steer’ me to a Type 42 destroyer I was amazed to take a call in FOST’s Ops Room from Captain Coward, a nuclear submariner, who asked me directly if I would be his second in command in the “brand new” BRILLIANT, an Anti Submarine Warfare Frigate whose only air-defence capability was the point defence weapon system – Sea Wolf.

My being “at the right place at the right time” in the Falklands Campaign effectively started then.SUBSEQUENT EXTRACT – XO’s WAR DIARY
15 Apri l 1982
We are all wearing Identity discs and Geneva Convention ID cards.
We could not have had a better preparation for this.
We are a finely tuned fighting machine that will cause the Argentineans a lot of trouble.

I could not be happier with John Coward in command.
His single-mindedness of Aim in preparing and driving the ship is most heartening.
He has a shrewd ability and judgement and we are all very much as one in wanting to act boldly and with daring.