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24 September 2014

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The Shipmates
The Shipmates

Devon Shipmates on TV

Naval life in Devon goes under the spotlight in a new BBC documentary that goes behind the scenes at Devonport Royal Naval base - from humanitarian efforts to things that go bump in the night.

Staff and crews from Devonport naval base are looking forward to becoming the latest stars of television, with a new BBC ONE series based on their daily life.

'Shipmates' is a warts-and-all documentary, showing what work and play in the Royal Navy is really like, both ashore and afloat.

It follows the lives of several key characters, especially on board the  frigate HMS Chatham during her deployment to the Gulf, and also her involvement in humanitarian operations after the Boxing Day tsunami in Sri Lanka.   

The ship's doctor at the time was Surgeon Lt Alison Dewynter, who's now moved to HMS Raleigh at Torpoint.

"The command to provide disaster relief off Sri Lanka was stressful, and then the added stress of having a camera lurking around," she said.

HMS Chatham
HMS Chatham

"It'll be interesting to see what the programme actually makes of it. It's a very big camera, and he carries it very close to your face.

"It was a bit distracting, and a lot of the time you felt yourself backing away from it because it was very much in your face or right on your shoulder. I suppose you got used to it as time went on, and you relaxed a bit as you realised he wasn't going to use every single bit of footage that he took!"

The man Alison was talking about was film-maker Chris Terrill, the fly-on-the-wall director who was also behind 'The Cruise' and 'HMS Brilliant'.

Chris says he was very pleased with the free reign he was allowed by the Royal Navy.

"I've been given amazing access, astonishing access, because making films like this you have to have what we call 'warts and all' access.

"I'm not coming here to do a PR job, I'm coming here to portray what I see is happening on our warships, so the Navy had to be quite courageous in a sense by letting me come in and do my thing."

All parties agreed that the Navy would have no editorial control whatsoever over what was broadcast but Terrill admits that wasn't a major problem.

"They were right to take the chance that there isn't much to tarnish their reputation." he said.

"You're always going to find something anywhere, in any walk of life, but this is a Navy to be proud of. I've learnt that, and I hope I show that in the series".

Field Gun racing
Field Gun racing

Amont the individuals Chris follows in the series is "Ratz" Rackliff, one of HMS Chatham's gunners. He left Devonport on deployment to the Gulf, leaving his wife Teresa to cope with her first pregnancy alone.

'Shipmates' follows her story at home too, recognising that a whole family is affected by one person's time at sea.

"Teresa was three months pregnant and I got to see the first scan before I went away, so I got to see everything was OK," said Ratz.

"Then Chris followed the pregnancy where he could, and followed me here at work, right the way through until the end, and did some videoing of my son when he was born. Quite an experience!"

The series five one-hour episodes feature not only HMS Chatham, but the Royal Navy's largest warship, HMS Ocean, on a training exercise from Plymouth.

The land-based Naval facilities are also included with Torpoint's shore training establishment HMS Raleigh and Devonport naval base, the largest in western Europe featuring.

One episode follows a team of ghostbusters as they explore Devonport and investigate unexplained events, some dating back 300 years.

Shipmates begins on BBC ONE on Tuesday 22nd November at 9pm and runs for five weeks.

last updated: 16/11/05
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