Home' Navy News : May 12th 2011 Contents NAVY NEWS
May 12, 2011
Watson's sea change
AFTER serving nearly 40
years in the Royal Navy
and RAN, and working
on board the USS Blue
Ridge during her recent humanitar-
ian effort off Japan, LCDR Chris
Watson is hanging up his seafarer's
hat in May.
LCDR Watson, 56, has spent the
past year-and-a-half at Yokosuka,
Japan, serving with US Commander
Seventh Fleet Staff (C7F Staff) on
board the USS Blue Ridge as part
of the RAN's Personnel Exchange
Appointed as the UN Korea (Rear)
Command's Liaison Officer to C7F
Staff, LCDR Watson's role involved
working in the N7 directorate to sup-
port VADM Buskirk's Fleet Theatre
Security and Cooperation Program.
"My desk looked after relationships
with Australia, New Zealand, New
Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the
Pacific Island nations," LCDR Watson
He said Blue Ridge had just arrived
in Singapore for a week-long port visit
when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake
struck Japan on March 11.
"In less than 24 hours we had
recalled all our personnel, loaded
pallets of humanitarian aid stores onto
the upper deck and sailed back to
"Many of the ship's company
and C7F Staff were married and had
families based in US Navy quarters in
Yokohama, north of the US Navy base
at Yokosuka. We were all very worried
about our families and wondering if
our houses were still standing."
Blue Ridge's crew and staff were
initially taken aback when it was
revealed the USS Ronald Reagan had
been exposed to radiation from the
damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
"At that point, Operation
Tomodachi (Japanese for 'friend')
became very complex and the other
Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS
George Washington, which was under-
going maintenance at the time, sailed
from Yokosuka to avoid any further
contamination. By then, however,
minor contamination had already
LCDR Watson's wife, Angela, and
two dogs were in a US Navy quarter
in Yokohama, experiencing the earth-
quake and the aftershocks and nuclear
crisis that followed.
Mrs Watson said she was drying
her hands with a tea towel in the kitch-
en when she felt the first tremor.
"I thought I was having a dizzy
spell," she said.
"I clutched at the sink and thought
'I feel very odd'. Then I realised it was
an earthquake. It was much worse than
the other earthquakes I had experi-
enced in Japan."
LCDR Watson said he was prompt-
ed to retire after he was diagnosed
with a serious medical condition.
"I submitted my discharge paper-
work because I thought I was ill and
wanted to spend more time with my
wife," he said.
"Thankfully, it turned out to be
a misdiagnosis. But, by then, I had
already adjusted to the idea of retiring,
becoming my own boss and moving to
Tasmania with Angela."
LCDR Watson was born near
Burnley in Lancashire, England and
joined the RN in 1973. After graduat-
ing from the Britannia Royal Naval
College, LCDR Watson deployed to
the Caribbean and western seaboard
of North and South America. He also
served as the XO on board HMS
Before transferring to the RAN in
2002, LCDR Watson served for three
years as the UK's exchange officer
LCDR Chris Watson will soon retire after 29 years in the RN, almost nine
in the RAN and helping out in Japan. CPL Melanie Schinkel reports.
BOWING OUT: LCDR Chris
Watson (right) with LCDR
Demetrius Williams from the US
Navy on board USS Blue Ridge in
February. Inset, LCDR Watson's
photograph of the parading of US
Navy and Marine Corps colours
and the US and Malaysian nation-
al flags taken from his "scuttle" on
board Blue Ridge.
"In less than 24 hours
we had recalled all
our personnel, loaded
pallets of humanitarian
aid stores onto the
upper deck and sailed
back to Japan."
-- LCDR Chris Watson
in the Joint Information Operations
Centre in San Antonio, Texas. He was
the first allied exchange officer to be
awarded the US Meritorious Service
Medal for his work in information
operations during the Balkans conflict.
LCDR Watson said he felt privi-
leged to have experienced all that he
had during his career.
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