Royal Navy warship HMS Argyll has left London with the landmark Tower Bridge lifted especially for the departure – after the ship’s first visit in 15 years.
The Plymouth-based ship was waved farewell by Commodore Michael Atherton, the Naval Regional Commander for Eastern England. Cdre Atherton pressed the button to bring traffic on the London Inner Ring Road to a temporary standstill and lift the bascules of Tower Bridge for the Type 23 frigate to pass.
HMS Argyll berthed last week in a highly prominent position on the Thames next to former warship Belfast as part of a rolling programme of visits to ports around the UK by Royal Navy warships to give the public an idea of the service’s equipment, people and the work it does around the globe.
A reception and capability demonstration was held on the day of HMS Argyll’s arrival, attended by Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Anna Soubry, Lord and Lady Levene of Portsoken and Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, Rear Admiral Surface Ships.
HMS Argyll’s captain Commander Paul Hammond told guests: “HMS Argyll did a huge range of work around the world during her last deployment – from training African navies to conducting counter-piracy operations in the eastern Pacific. This has shown the versatility and value for money that all Royal Navy frigates provide.”
Among the equipment Argyll was proud to show off, her new radar. The ship is only the second in the fleet to receive the sensor as part of a £100m programme which can identify a target the size of a cricket or tennis ball moving at three times the speed of sound more than 15 miles away.
The ship also hosted students from a college in Tottenham, civilians interested in joining the Royal Naval Reserve, and youngsters in the City of London Sea Cadets.
The cadets were given a ship’s tour with explanations from sailors and they met Cdr Hammond. He said: “I was a member of Ruislip Sea Cadets throughout my youth and to be able to welcome the members of a Sea Cadet unit on to my frigate in London is extremely gratifying,” said Argyll’s commanding officer, who still lives in the capital, these days in Balham. I saw the opportunities the Royal Navy offered and the exciting career prospects and the chance to see the world really appealed. “The variety and challenge of the various roles I have had during my 23-year career kept me motivated and to command a warship is a massive honour. It has always been an ambition of mine to bring a Royal Navy warship into London as a captain.”
On return to Devonport, the warship will undergo intensive training to prepare for future operations.