HMS Argyll to Return to Plymouth After 186-Day Patrol in Middle East

HMS Argyll to Return to Plymouth After 186-Day Patrol in Middle East

HMS Argyll will return to Plymouth on Friday after an 186-day patrol in the Middle East. Some 650 friends and family are expected to greet the frigate which has spent the past six months keeping the sea lanes free and flying the flag for the UK.

In recognition of the ship’s Scottish links a bagpiper from the Plymouth Pipe Band will be playing on the ship’s bridge roof as HMS Argyll enters its base-port at HM Naval Base Devonport where HM Royal Marines Band, Plymouth, continue the musical welcome on the jetty

A crowd of 650 cheering families and friends will be on the jetty with the band as the ship berths, ready to greet their loved ones leaving the ship. A face painter and magician will also entertainment young families as they watch the ship come up the River Tamar.

It will be 186 days since many of those on the berth at Devonport have seen the ship, since when she’s sailed over 36,600 nautical miles, – the equivalent of one and a half times around the globe – burning approximately 3,300 tonnes of fuel in the process.

Perhaps more surprising is that even with an email system that remains available both at sea and alongside, the ship still received over four tonnes of traditional post.

Impressive as such statistics are, they pale compared with the achievements of Argyll’s Leading Logistician John Wicking – the most experienced sailor in the entire Royal Navy.

When he crosses the brow on Friday he will have completed 5,100 days of separated service – just short of 14 whole years at sea. No current sailor in the RN has spent longer at sea – an achievement acknowledged by a personal letter from the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.

The leading hand will be greeted for the first time by his second grandchild, four-month-old Angelique, whom he’s not yet seen – she was born during the deployment.

“I have been on many deployments during my time at sea and although this one has been hard work I’ve also enjoyed it, but I’m really looking forward to meeting my new grandchild,” said 49-year-old John from Plymstock.

Also on the dockside will be two newly-born babies whose fathers serve on the ship. The two doting dads managed to be home for the births, but rejoined the ship and have since had wait patiently during months of separation before reuniting with their babies.

The frigate has spent the bulk of the past six months working as part of the 25-nation Combined Maritime Forces in the Gulf, ensuring the safe and uninterrupted flow of shipping and legitimate maritime trade.

She worked with ships and aircraft of coalition nations deterring piracy, escorting the giant US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln through the Strait of Hormuz and providing a Royal Guard for the Prince Of Wales during a visit to Kuwait.

Upon handing over Gulf duties to HMS Daring, the Type 23 sailed for Lebanon, becoming the first British ship to visit since the autumn of 2006 – a visit hailed by Argyll’s Commanding Officer Cdr Paul Stroude as “one of the most rewarding and fascinating of my Naval career”.

From Lebanon, the frigate stopped off in Rhodes and Palma de Mallorca and, after a much-needed period of leave for her sailors, will undergo an intensive maintenance package before returning to operational duties later in the summer.

“After a long deployment it is vitally important that everyone has the opportunity to take leave, spend time with their families and friends, and essentially re-charge their batteries,” said Cdr Stroude.

“My ship’s company and I are glad to be home after an extremely-demanding yet professionally-fulfilling six-month operational deployment which would not have been possible without the support of our families.”

Naval Today Staff , March 28, 2012; Image: royalnavy