The Royal Navy warship HMS Monmouth has visited Gibraltar on her way to her maritime policing duties in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean having sailed from her baseport of Plymouth last week.
Joined by Gibraltar’s permanent Royal Navy presence, patrol boats HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar, frigate HMS Monmouth conducted a high-speed ‘sovereignty patrol’ of territorial waters, while her Wildcat helicopter did the same around the ‘Rock’, overflying the British Overseas Territory.
Patrol complete, the Type 23 frigate (nicknamed the Black Duke), berthed and the crew headed ashore to enjoy the delights of Gibraltar (the gruelling Rock Race to the peak, Barbary Apes, Casemate Square, wartime tunnels and more.) ahead of their intense main patrol.
As well as the first port visit of the deployment, Gibraltar was the first foreign visit for many of the ship’s junior sailors, including Able Seaman Kristoffer Auld. He said: “Gibraltar has a certain mystique about it and everyone in the Navy has a good ‘Gib’ story. I’m really pleased to have visited this part of the UK and it will always be that little bit more special for me as it’s my first foreign stop.”
He and his shipmates used the 1,000-mile passage from their native Devonport to begin flexing their muscles for the core part of the deployment, which begins in earnest once leaving Gib.
The frigate has been the first Type 23 frigate to be equipped with heavy machine-guns to bolster her close-in defences when conducting counter-trafficking and smuggling patrols in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean.
Petty Officer Leighton Bartlett (Above Water Warfare Branch), who oversaw the inaugural exercise shoot, said: “It’s an impressive weapon. Powerful and rapid firing, it offers my gunners a lot of stopping power should we have to defend the Black Duke from attack. You wouldn’t want to be in its way that’s for sure!”
On the trigger was Able Seaman Jordan Elliot (Above Water Warfare Branch), who said: “It was great fun to fire – it’s exactly the sort of thing I came into the branch to do.”
Also tested was the ship’s ScanEagle miniature eyes in the sky; the small drone has proved to be a crucial asset in monitoring shipping in the Gulf on other patrols, beaming live camera footage directly into ship’s operations room.
On sailing from Gibraltar, HMS Monmouth joins HMS Echo on the international operation which is Europe’s military response to the migrant problem in North Africa and the central Mediterranean, before passing through Suez for the core of the deployment dealing with terrorism/piracy/drug trafficking/arms smuggling in the Indian Ocean and Gulf.