Falmouth’s most frequent visitor to the docks during her 30 year career is probably the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus. On her last deployment Argus embarked pilots and aircrew from 824 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose.

A month at sea saw 14 new aircrew undergoing intense training as they hunted down submarines and ships around the UK.

An 88-strong detachment of air and ground crew from 824 Naval Air Squadron took three Merlin Mk2 helicopters aboard RFA Argus for four weeks of flying, first off the Cornish coast, then in the wilder waters off the Hebrides.

The goal was to qualify five pilots, four observers (navigator/weapons specialists) and five aircrewmen (weapons specialists/winchmen) in the art of landing and taking off at sea, refuelling without touching down on the deck of the aviation training ship, shifting loads slung beneath the 14-tonne helicopter, before moving on to 40 hours of submarine hunting and three dozen hours of tracking down surface ships.

The latter two strands of the training were greatly assisted by Argus’ presence at the autumn Joint Warrior exercise, the twice-yearly UK-led war games staged in Scotland and off its west coast.

The latest incarnation of the fortnight-long exercise gave the trainee fliers 35 ships, aircraft and helicopters to play with - and allowed the crews to develop some of the skills and tactics they’ll be required to use to protect new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.

The squadron is in charge of training for the entire ‘grey’ (submarine hunting rather than ‘green’ commando carrying) Merlin force, providing qualified pilots, observers and engineers for squadrons assigned to the UK’s aircraft carriers and Type 23 frigates.