ANYONE heading for Bournemouth seafront to enjoy the Air Festival might wonder what the large ship moored in the bay is doing.

As in previous years, the armed forces will be in abundance at the four-day event (August 19-22) and they will be supported by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Largs Bay.

The 16,000 tonne ship will be home to servicemen and women for the weekend and will provide support for the festival, as well as taking part in training exercises.

Many of those on board are from Dorset, including Weymouth man Captain Trevor Iles.

He said: “Our aim is to support the Bournemouth Air Festival and at the same time there’s the regimental forces’ exercise going on, which is the Royal Marines and Royal Naval Reserves.

“They do their essential amphibious training at Hurst Point, using us as their platform.”

The ship will also provide accommodation for cadets taking part – this year’s Navy theme for the festival is celebrating 150 years of the Cadet Force.

“These are young boys and girls who are going to have their first experience of life at sea to see if it’s for them,” added Capt Iles.

After helping the victims of the Haiti earthquake and taking part in a huge military exercise on the east coast of the USA already this year, this weekend will represent a different challenge for the ship’s company.

Capt Iles said: “To come and support the air festival is a stark contrast to the other bits, but it’s welcome. We enjoy the variety that we get.

“Four weeks ago we were doing simulated amphibious landings on the beaches of North Carolina – now we’re here with different aims, but it’s important to the crew to support it as best they can.”

Largs Bay is a sister ship to Mounts Bay, which visited the festival in 2008 and 2009. It is designed to carry 356 fully equipped troops, but this can double in wartime. It can also carry 33 Challenger tanks, two Chinook helicopters and many other military vehicles.

Capt Iles added: “I travel all of the world, but coming back to this piece of coast for me has particular meaning. The Jurassic Coast is an absolutely beautiful part of the world. Having operated across the world it reminds me and many of my crew who are locals how lucky we are to live here.”

Largs Bay arrives from Portland early tomorrow morning and its next job is to sail up to its namesake town, Largs, west of Glasgow for the Largs Viking Festival.