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Bulwark docks in Phuket: No sprouts please, we're British

Phuket R&R for Bulwark in War With Sprouts

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tour HMS Bulwark: Photo Album Above

THE BRITISH warship HMS Bulwark docked on Phuket today, with its complement of 550 crew and marines looking forward to shore leave.

And perhaps, strange as it may seem, large plates of Brussels sprouts.

Next week, Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-nob said today, more than 4000 US sailors will get their chance to enjoy R&R on the holiday island.

After six weeks sailing in Southeast Asian waters, the Bulwark's crew was looking forward to a break ashore on Phuket, Captain Wayne Keble said today.

The captain is now the centre of a rumpus in the British media because he has allegedly banned the Brussels sprout from his vessel as ''the devil's vegetable.''

This is apparently because the round, green vegetables smell bad when being cooked, and are also reputed to have anti-social effects after consumption.

Popeye the sailor may love his spinach, but according to the Daily Mail newspaper, Captain Keble hates sprouts.

Another newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, says Captain Keble disclosed details of his ban after he was asked to confirm reports he had banned fried foods from his ship.

''The only thing I have banned on board is Brussels sprouts,'' he is quoted as saying.

''They are the devil's vegetable and the only thing I do not like, and the only thing I hate.

''Brussels sprouts are absolutely banned on board HMS Bulwark. I do not eat them so I do not know what the after-effects are.''

Captain Keble's war with the Brussels sprout, however, does not involve exercises at sea.

The visits to Phuket follow naval war games off Brunei, the independent sultanate on north coast of the island of Borneo, which is also shared by Malaysia and Indonesia.

The sailors, 50 of whom are women, will take part in some charity work, among other activities, while ashore.

Captain Keble said there was a long and happy relationship between the Thai Navy and the British Navy.

The Bulwark sails again on Monday.

As warships from several countries took part in the latest exercises, HMS Bulwark dropped a contingent of 40 Royal Marine commandos ashore for training in the jungle.

Amphibious vessels are able to leave and board the ship through a large gated bay in the vessel's rear.

The 18,500 tonne vessel, known as a Landing Platform Dock (LRD) has the capacity to carry as many as three helicopters.

It has been at sea since leaving Britain in February, combining with 11 other ships and a nuclear-powered submarine as part of the Taurus 09 Task Force.

Along the way, the Bulwark sailed through pirate-infested waters between Yemen and Somalia.

With ships from India the Bulwark conducted a major multi-agency amphibious exercise with the Bangladesh Navy, aimed at integrating the two forces to share expertise to combat terrorism, enhancing British environmental training and preparedness for natural disasters in the region.

Commodore Paul Bennett, who oversees all ships in the task force, told the media at the deep sea port today that the Bulwark will be joined in Phuket by the US destroyer Mitscher.

The governor told a separate gathering at Provincial Hall that an even larger contingent, this time of American sailors, was due to dock next week.

Captain Keble and Commodore Bennett will play host at a cocktail party on board the Bulwark tonight to guests including British Ambassador Quinton Quayle and British honorary consul for Phuket Martin Carpenter.

It is the Bulwark's first visit to Phuket, which is one of the most popular destinations in the region among all navies.

Perhaps while HMS Bulwark is docked on Phuket, Captain Keble will be introduced to a fruit that many Thais love, the Durian.

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