Proud moments aboard ship that helped to rescue migrants in Med

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Son Joe aboard HMS Bulwark (inset), which has just returned from the Mediterranean

There was an opportunity for some friends and family to be ferried out to the ship anchored just outside the harbour on its return and then accompany it into port with due ceremony.

Once on board and after a circuit of the various quarters we stood back as crew members lined the massive vessel, helicopters circled it and a fleet of tugs kept company. Hundreds were waiting on shore for their loved ones. It was all very impressive. Bulwark had been deployed from its original task in Turkey to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign to rescue activities focussed on migrants fleeing on makeshift crafts from the north African coast. Operation Weald, as it was called, was a humanitarian exercise of huge importance during which the ship was on virtually constant alert. Some of the figures we came away with were striking. The number of rescued survivors – 4,747; total meals served to those taken on board – 16,976; blankets issued – 4,000; bottles of water – 7,300. Joe is a met observer and had been flown out from his base at RAF Culdrose in Cornwall as a replacement at short notice. These things happen. His role was crucial in that daily weather reports determined flight sorties by the helicopters on Bulwark to search for overloaded dinghies and small craft in trouble. I asked him if he ever saw much of the captain to which his response was: “I have to report to him every day.”

We were joined on deck by Sarah Waddington, a reporter for the local paper, the Plymouth Herald, which was treating the whole occasion with the enthusiasm it warranted. Sarah interviewed Joe and got his side of the story and also spoke with me about writing for the Lynn News. Invariably I write about other people’s stories. Now and again it’s a pleasure to record something like this and take personal pride in what a young member of the family has managed to contribute whilst ‘on duty’.

n Recent Ofsted reports on Fakenham Academy, Fakenham Junior and Fakenham Infant schools have indicated a big turnaround in their respective fortunes. All were rated ‘good’. Each of the schools is understandably pleased with these outcomes and is now pushing on towards the ultimate rating which is ‘outstanding’. Having seen my share of Ofsted reports in the past I’m aware of the coded language which is invariably used by inspectors. Sometimes you have to read between the lines. What I particularly liked was the banner pinned on the railings outside the Infants on Norwich Road. It declared: ‘This is a GOOD school’ and quoted the following from its June report: “Pupils behave well, they are friendly, considerate and helpful and have positive attitudes to learning.”

Can’t say better than that.

n A small wildlife haven has been created in the grounds of a former gasworks in Fakenham. Pollutants from coal gas during the 120 years when the works was operating continue to affect the site which is now home to the Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History. The ‘ecology area’ will be monitored on a regular basis by Dr Robin Parker, a member of Fakenham Area Conservation Team. Museum coordinator Harry Yates has encouraged the initiative which has already drawn interest from this summer’s crop of visitors. The museum is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10.30am to 3.30pm and also on August Bank Holiday.