The commanding officer of Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose praised his ship’s company today (Wednesday) on an emotional return from a hard-hitting anti-piracy patrol.
The crew were welcomed to their base-port of HM Naval Base Devonport by a cheering crowd of families and friends after nearly five months on an action-packed deployment. The party atmosphere was completed by families being given gifts and children entertained while accompanied Her Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines.
The ship’s commanding officer, Commander Jonathan Lett, said: “It is fantastic to be back home and wonderful to see so many people here to welcome us back home today. I am very proud of my ship’s company for what they have achieved with tangible results after deterring pirate activity by our presence and by our actions. The ship’s company deserve their Christmas break and so do the families who have given us such great support. It is very heart-warming to see them reunited on the jetty.”
Lieutenant Commander Duncan Humphery, the ship’s marine engineer officer, was greeted by his overjoyed family – wife Natasha and their children Oliver, 3, and Isabel, 6. Duncan said: “It is brilliant to see my family on the jetty to welcome me back home – nothing is better. This was one of the most successful and enjoyable deployments I have been on in the Navy. Not only did we see and were able to measure the successful results of our counter-piracy action, but also visited some interesting countries when we had the chance of a break.”
Natasha said: “We are all pleased to have him back. Not only have the children missed him, but I also have a list of DIY tasks for him!” His daughter said she wanted to beat her dad at the game Mario Cards. Meanwhile, the family were planning an aptly named pirate theme party to welcome Duncan home.
Leading Writer Stef Collins, 22, of Tamerton Foliot, Plymouth, was welcomed home by her family waving a greeting banner, including her mother Helen Critchley, her father Jeremy Collins, sisters Jenna and Kate and nephews Charlie, 3, and Ollie, 11 months. Stef told her family she enjoyed the patrol. Her mother’s husband Steve is also deployed in Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay and returns home in January. Helen said: “It’s such a relief to have Stef back home. My house has been much too quiet. Now we can look forward to filling it up again.”
Robert Smith stepped off the ship to be hugged by his partner Natalie, their baby son Kai and mother-in-law Jenny Williams who braved the snowy weather in Hull to greet him. Natalie said: “It’s the best Christmas present to have Robert back. He has been longing cuddle Kai who was only two weeks old when he sailed. I have been sending him so many photos by email to keep him up to date with how Kai has changed.”
The crew’s rousing welcome is reward for a successful and high-profile deployment on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf and Aden and the Somali Basin. HMS Montrose took part in Operation Ocean Shield as part of a dedicated multi-national NATO counter-piracy task force comprising HDMS Esbern Snare (Flagship) from Denmark, USS Kauffman and USS Laboon from the USA and ITS Bersagliere from Italy.
The frigate had notable successes against pirates with the destruction of pirate whalers and the freeing of the crew of the freighter – the MV Beluga Fortune – following a piracy attack. HMS Montrose’s first action came while patrolling internationally recognised protected transit shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden, she has been mostly patrolling the Somali Basin deterring and disrupting piracy.
As well as destroying pirate whalers, HMS Montrose conducted operations to disrupt large merchant vessels which pirates have been using as floating bases or ‘mother ships’. The ship’s Lynx helicopter, from Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton, Somerset, has been flying many hours of sorties along the coast of Somalia conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions of the known pirate camps to gather details for the coalition on piracy camp and vessel movements.
As well as policing the seas and coast, HMS Montrose has promoted and sustained international diplomatic relations. This includes visiting the Seychelles and Tanzania to provide engineering support and training in shipping board-and-search techniques so their defence forces can take a greater role in anti-piracy operations.
It has been a very busy and eventful year for and the crew will take a well-earned Christmas holiday. Leave will be followed by the ship going into maintenance in Devonport, before undertaking a major exercise off Scotland and then the crew undergoes training with the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation in Plymouth in preparation for any future tasking.
Commissioned in 1992 HMS Montrose has a crew of 199 officers and ratings and is equipped with the latest weapons, sensors and communications systems, including the vertical-launch Seawolf missile system for close-air-defence, a 4.5-inch gun, anti-submarine torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Lynx helicopter.