Land-locked Birmingham is almost 100 miles from the sea, but that doesn't stop Brummies from joining the Royal Navy.Helen Gabriel found her sea legs and spent a day on board HMS Chatham...
War takes place in Plymouth. Every Thursday in fact.
Not the real thing, but a large-scale training exercise to prepare Royal Navy crews for what they might face in conflict.
Preparing for the latest encounter was HMS Chatham , barely visible in the early morning mist as she cut her way elegantly across Plymouth Sound. Twelve miles from shore, with nothing on the horizon, she looked ghostly and intimidating in her standard-issue grey paint.
It was also an occasion for officer recruits, keen to experience their first taste of life on a warship, to be on board. It was a far cry from Chatham's two most recent deployments - helping with the tsunami relief effort in Sri Lanka and on patrol in the Gulf - but there was still a catching buzz of excitement on board.
Chief Petty Officer Rick Bennett was one of three of HMS Chatham's officers to be awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service for tsunami relief work.
Despite her recent use for humanitarian aid, HMS Chatham was built for war. The deck is littered with constant reminders of her true purpose - signs such as " Danger - when rattle sounds missile is about to fire" and "Careful - explosives".
Flanked by uniformed officers, I felt like I was in a war film.
We were given a demo of the ship's 4.5Mk 8 gun, which shot concrete out to sea after helicopters had made sure we were clear of any fishing boats too small to be detected by the radar. The sound of the gun firing was incredible, and we saw columns of water propelled high into the air as the concrete blocks landed with an almighty splash.
A fascination with big, scary weapons isn't essential, but it certainly helps. HMS Chatham's Weapons Engineer Officer, Lt Cmdr Graham Sellers, has a degree in explosives engineering. "Blowing things up is what I do," he said.
HMS Chatham also carries two quadruple harpoon launchers, a Seawolf antimissile system, two 20mm guns, triple torpedo tubes and Goalkeeper - a seven barrel anti-missile weapon which fires 4,500 rounds per minute.
Next week, it will test the new Sea Wolf missile, which travels at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound, as part of its acceptance trials.
The ship carries two Lynx helicopters, which demonstrated a spectacular take off and landing and an air-sea rescue which involved Royal Marines dangling from ropes.
Chatham needs to be stocked up and ready to be deployed at just 48 hours notice, and we were shown how her supplies are replenished at sea, by taking fuel off a neighbouring tanker through cables while travelling at 30 knots.
GR9 harriers - fixed-wing fighters the size of Boeings - scared the wits out of me by performing simulated missile attacks on the boat. The noise was terrifying and they seemed only a few feet above us as they flew over at 475 mph, but I was assured they were 100ft up.
I was beginning to think I might like to join up until we were shown below deck to the darkened Ops room, where the heart of the mock battle was being fought. The Ops room is always dark, and always cold. There were eight people who spend up to 16 hours a day in front of their screens, and they barely paused to look up.
I was shown to a work station which had a joystick with a trigger on it in front of the screen. It looked exactly like an arcade game, but this was the real thing. Lt-Cmdr Sellers told me the trigger controlled one of the ship's lasers, and the pedal under the seat fired the gun, so I resisted the urge to press anything.
There are six messes, the biggest of which is home to 57 of the 250-strong crew. The cramped space becomes home for up to six months at a time, and was littered with signs of life - pictures of holidays, lads' nights out and topless women. At least the alcohol is ridiculously cheap, with a shot of vodka costing 9p and gin 12p.