The crew of the Royal Naval warship HMS Montrose has bid farewell to her outgoing captain before the ship enters dry dock.
The ship’s 14th commanding officer, Commander James Parkin, handed over to the ship’s new temporary captain while the ship is in refit – a Senior Naval Officer and current Marine Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Fergus Ochtman-Corfe as the ship started a refit period in her base-port of Plymouth Naval Base.
In this multi-million pound maintenance period, she will be dry-docked for a series of machinery and sensor upgrades, structural repairs and extensive maintenance not possible while the ship is in the water.
Commander Parkin has been in command since July 2012 during which the ship has visited 24 foreign ports in 13 different countries and travelled the equivalent of almost three times the circumference of the earth. The ship also took part in two exercise deployments of the UK’s Response Force Task Group (deployable at short-notice worldwide), patrolled the Persian Gulf and escorted Syrian chemical weapons under UN mandate. Most recently, she was the UK’s contribution to an annual exercise in the Baltic, after which she visited her affiliated hometown of Montrose, Scotland, for the first time in six years.
But it has hasn’t all been hard work for the ship, as under Commander Parkin’s lead, there has been time for the ‘human touch’! The crew has worked diligently for various charities with the Ship’s Company raising £13,000 in 2013-14, and staged a charity auction in London, where the Patron of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, HRH The Princess Royal visited. At sea, the ship has hosted a number of fun events too, from a “Highland Games” on the flight deck (off Bahrain!) in honour of the ship’s Scottish connections, a traditional “Row the Suez” indoor challenge, and even a nativity play when the ship was at sea on Christmas Day.
All this hard work and play had its rewards, as during 2013 and 2014, a praiseworthy 94 members of the crew were selected for promotion – a record achievement for the ship. Formal recognition came to when the ship’s photographer Alex Knott was awarded the accolade as Royal Navy Photographer of the Year at the Peregrine Trophy Awards.
HMS Montrose’s Lynx helicopter 214 Flight from 815 Naval Air Squadron (RN Air Station Yeovilton) were this week presented with the Osprey Trophy for best Ship’s Flight in 2013/14.
Commander Parkin said: “The past two and a bit years have been the best time of my naval career. I have been privileged to command the best ship’s company in the Royal Navy, and humbled by their enthusiasm, and attitude of the hundreds of sailors, marines and officers who have proudly served in this ship since I joined in 2012. I have enjoyed every minute and could not have wished for a finer ship, or better people to be prepared to potentially go to war with.”
Lieutenant Commander Ochtman-Corfe, formerly of the Royal New Zealand Navy but now a full time RN officer, said: “Following Commander Parkin’s lead will not be easy, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Having been chosen to be the Senior Naval Officer for HMS Montrose at this important stage in her service and managing the capability upgrades and improvements the ship will receive during our time in upkeep will be really worthwhile.”
After officially handing over command Commander Parkin was rowed away by his officers in a gig while the crew cheered with their caps in hand and waved him goodbye.
The new permanent commanding officer, the fifteenth, will join in Spring 2015, and HMS Montrose is scheduled next to return to sea again in 2016.