HMS Montrose Returns Home after Syria Mission
The Royal Navy warship HMS Montrose returns home to the South West on Wednesday (12th March) after a series of successful operations, including supporting the international efforts to ensure removal of chemical weapons from Syria.
The frigate will sail into HM Naval Base, Devonport, Plymouth to an expected hero’s welcome from over 650 overjoyed family and friends on the jetty with banners, cheering and a few tears following a successful seven-month deployment including 32,000 miles and visits to 12 ports in ten countries.
Her crew initially sailed into the Mediterranean in August with a number of other warships as part of the Response Force Task Group for Cougar 2013, designed to exercise to enhance the Royal Navy’s skill at operating at long range from land the UK and other support.
Commander James Parkin, the ship’s captain, said: ‘I am incredibly proud of my ship’s company who have committed themselves to the changing circumstances of this deployment and the professionalism that this mission has demanded.
“From our work in the Gulf, to our time on the Syrian chemical weapons tasking, the deployment has been a definitive success in every one of the many tasks that my team have undertaken.’’
From there the ship moved into the Persian Gulf as the UK’s primary maritime policing patrol.
Arriving on station in November of last year, the ship was straight into action conducting maritime security and reassurance patrols alongside partner nations in the region; safeguarding the sea lanes of the Middle East.
2014 brought new tasking as the Type 23 was directed into the Eastern Mediterranean to join Operation Recsyr– the Danish-led mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria.
After arriving off the coast of Syria in mid January, HMS Montrose and a multi-national task group of warships from Denmark and Norway carried out escort and close protection duties of two merchant vessels transporting their toxic cargo out of Syria and through the Mediterranean Sea for destruction elsewhere.
The mission also involved close co-ordination and interaction with Russian and Chinese warships operating in the area, a new experience for many of the 200 men and women in the ship.
Commander Parkin added: “As you can see from the nations operating in the area, this mission is a statement of intent by the global community and we are extremely proud to have been the United Kingdom’s first contribution to its vital work.
“Having been re-tasked from operations in the Gulf, my ship’s company and I were all honoured to be part of an operation of such international significance.”
After handing over duties to HMS Diamond HMS Montrose was praised for the chemical weapons duties.
Sigrid Kaag, the Head of the Joint Mission set up by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations said ‘the ship should be proud of their courage and commitment which speaks volumes for the UK’s vision for international peace and security’.
Air Engineering Technician Carwyn Jones, part of the ship’s Lynx helicopter Flight from 815 Naval Air Squadron, and on his first deployment, said, “It’s been a challenging 7 months and when we left Plymouth I definitely didn’t expect to end up patrolling the coastline of Syria.
“Overall it’s been a great experience for my first tour and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Deputy Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Nick Robinson, who helps keep the ship supplied with everything from bullets to butter, said: ‘Over the course of the deployment we have eaten over 12 tonnes of potatoes, which is equivalent to a double decker bus; 2700 kg of Baked Beans or if you prefer, 20 baths full, 2.224 km of sausages, 7000 litres of milk and 24480 eggs.’’
The marine engineers ensured that the diesel and gas turbine engines operated at full capacity. They have used 3,763,000 litres of fuel, enough to send a car to Venus on 50,000 fills.
Arguably the biggest driver of the ship has been the steady supply of messages arriving over from loved ones back home – 787 bags of mail, weighing 6 tonnes.
As Sub Lieutenant Tristan ‘Dinger’ Bell said: “Receiving mail from home is vital to morale on board, for some people on board it’s been letters with news, for others It’s been magazines and chocolates.
“For me it’s been the regular supply of Battenburg cake from my mum!.’’
It is not just been mail that has been delivered: Eight proud new fathers are now looking forward to returning home to spend time with their new additions to the family.
Chief Petty Officer Ryan Diggle said: “With a new baby at home, being away at sea was always going to provide its own challenges but the thought of returning home to be reunited with my beautiful new daughter has kept me going for the whole seven months.
“I can’t wait to get her back in my arms and make up for lost time.”
Rear Admiral Henry Parker, the Director of the UK’s new Carrier Strike programme, and Commodore of the Devonport Flotilla, Commodore Richard Farrington, will also meet the ship.
The crew will now take some well-earned leave and the ship begin a short maintenance period before taking up her role as the Royal Navy’s high readiness ‘on-call’ warship, ready to respond to a wide range of short notice tasks from search and rescue duties.
Press Release, March 12, 2014, 2014; Image: Royal Navy