By Greig Box And Chris Hughes
17 January 2006
A SENSITIVE Royal Navy document detailing a warship's top-secret
Middle East tour of duty has been found lying on a pub table.
Student Michael Blown, 22, spotted the papers showing the movements of
the frigate HMS St Albans as he played pool with his friends.
The lapse could have left British Royal Marines and sailors open to an
attack similar to the suicide bombing of USS Cole in Yemen in 2000
which killed 17 sailors.
Mr Blown said: "If this had been found by a terrorist sympathiser God
knows what could have happened. It's very serious. It's incredibly
The two-page document lists every planned movement of HMS St Albans
until the end of 2007.
Marked "restricted", it warns servicemen that the information must not
be "divulged to anyone" outside their immediate family.
The document, titled "HMS St Albans Longcast", includes the times and
dates of operations in Iraq, Beirut, Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai, the
Persian Gulf and Suez.
The ship's patrols in the Middle East are codenamed as part of
Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Last night, Ministry of Defence officials thanked the Mirror for
returning the document.
The Navy may now be forced to change the ship's schedule.
HMS St Albans is a Type 23 Frigate, the mainstay of the Navy's modern
She has two missile launchers, a Sea Wolf anti-missile system,
anti-submarine torpedoes, depth-charges, machine guns and decoy
launchers. There is also an anti-submarine helicopter on board.
Mr Blown found the ship's timetable near a pool table in The Albany, a
pub popular with sailors in Portsmouth.
Minutes earlier five men in their 30s, had been playing pool.
When Mr Blown realised the importance of his discovery he gave the
document to the Mirror and we handed in to the MoD.
It was dated December 1 and was signed by GC Atkinson, Lt Cdr RN.
At the end of the two-year operational timetable, he warns: "This
Longcast is classified Restricted and the information contained within
it should not be divulged to anyone outside your immediate family."
The brief is a full timetable for marines and sailors for the next two
years. The Mirror will not publish the exact dates and details for
Mr Blown, said: "I was playing pool with my mates when I spotted it on
view. It was on a small table.
"I wondered what it was and as I read it I couldn't believe my eyes.
"It didn't click at first. But when it did and I realised sensitive
information had just been left lying around for anyone to pick up I
thought 'bloody hell'.
"Whoever is responsible for losing it needs to be severely spoken to."
He went on: "A group of five men had been playing pool and drinking at
the table before we played.
"It must have belonged to one of them. "They clearly had drank a few
and just left it next to their empties.
"The document is clearly operational. It's frightening in this day and
age of security worries that it could be left in a boozer. Anyone
could have found it."
A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: "We are very grateful to the
"It is important that our families know what may be happening in the
future and we provide this initial planning document as an indication.
"It is not classified but it is sensitive and we make it clear that
those given copies should look after them.
"That this information has entered the public domain is disappointing.
"We will need to take this into account when we make the risk
assessments for the port visits and in finalising the ship's programme
over the next year. We will be reminding our people of the importance
of looking after this document in the future.
"We do of course conduct a rigorous risk assessment before any port
visit is finalised."
HMS St Albans was launched on the Clyde five years ago.
After a brief stay in Portsmouth in November 2000, she patrolled
waters for six months around the Horn of Africa to the northern Gulf,
intercepting suspect vessels in the hunt for terrorists.
HMS St Albans, which is the last of 16 Type 23 frigates built for the
Navy, has taken over duties from her sister ship HMS Kent.
The vessel has one of the Navy's newest anti-submarine helicopters on
board - a Merlin - to help hunt down suspicious vessels.
In 2004 HMS St Albans was deployed on Operation Oracle, patrolling the
Arabian Sea looking out for terror suspects.
She is currently in dock in Portsmouth.
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