More than 600 families and friends braved the biting wind to welcome their loved ones home aboard HMS Montrose when the ship arrived in Plymouth this morning (Friday 3 October).
The crew of the Type 23 frigate were praised by their commanding officer Commander Andy Hogben after a successful seven-month operational deployment in the Gulf which included a ten-tonne illegal drugs seizure.
The jetty at HM Naval Base, Devonport, Plymouth, was packed with a Royal Marine Band and happy families cheering and waving hand made banners greeting the crew who have been away for seven months in 40-50C heat working in arduous and difficult conditions protecting the world’s oil and other shipping from illegal activity including drugs, arms and people smuggling and piracy.
The Commanding Officer, Commander Andy Hogben said: “It’s fantastic to come home to such a warm welcome. It is great to see so many families on the jetty. My ship’s company have been waiting for this moment for seven months and it more than makes up for the time away from them. I must say thankyou to the families on behalf of the whole ship – without their emotional and practical support back home while we have been away in the Middle East this would have been a harder job than it already was.
“I am extremely proud of my ship’s company, they have worked really hard in harsh conditions. We had several successes out there and the major one was the biggest ever seizure of illegal drugs in the “region. We intercepted a dhow and the whole ship and the Lynx helicopter crew worked together on this operation. The boarding party and search party worked for hours in cramped, very uncomfortable conditions in very hot temperatures searching the boat for the hashish. It only dawned on us later that drugs we were destroying were being taken off the streets of Britain . The real reward of pour efforts.”
Commander Hogben, from Portsmouth , sailed into Devonport today with two of his three children Sam and James who embarked with his father-in-law Gavin in Spain. The CO was greeted on the jetty by his wife Julie and son Joe, age six.
Commander Hogben said the ship also provided a reassuring presence working alongside the regional navies of the Gulf States to ensure maritime security in the region. The area was infamous for piracy and a merchant ship was holed by pirates armed with rocket propelled grenades while HMS Montrose was there.
HMS Montrose and fellow Plymouth warship HMS Chatham, Portsmouth-based HMS Edinburgh and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus (with Sea King helicopters on board) were jointly involved in the successful anti-drug smuggling operations amounting to 23 tonnes seized due to Royal Naval interceptions over a five-month period earlier this year.
Leading Logistician Danielle, 22, of Liverpool, was greeted by her family including her aunt Margaret Monnington and boyfriend Luke Monnington. Danielle said: “It’s been a great deployment, my second, but the longest. The drugs bust was the highlight, but it’s great to be back home.” Margaret said: “We missed her a lot. It’s great to have her back home. She stayed in touch out there and enjoyed it.”
The excited three daughters of Leading Stores Accountant Karl Want, 31, of Plymouth , cheered his ship from the jetty and hugged him on shore. The girls, Katie, 10, Tia, 6, and beth,12 months, were with their mother Elaine. Katie said she missed her father seeing her swim with the Devonport Naval Base swimming club and going out cycling. Elaine said: “We’re all so pleased he is back and he can share the girl’s activities and go out with us all. He’s also missed a large part of Beth’s life as she is so young.”
HMS Montrose engineer Cheryl Simmons, 25, of Plymouth, returned from her first deployment and immediately had her arms full when two babies were thrust into her arms on the jetty – her nephews,aged five week and 11 weeks. She said: “I’ve been looking forward to seeing the babies and I am.”
Warfare specialist Kieran Robinson, 21, was met on dry land by his sister Kelly, holding her baby Mischa, aged six weeks, – the first time he had seen his new niece. Lucy said: “We are dead close as brother and sister. I so wanted Jason to see Layla for the first. It’s so exciting.” Jason was also met by his father Barry and friend Rob and girlfriend Harriet who also went out earlier to Dubai to meet him on the ship. She said: “I’ve so missed him. He’s only been in the Navy two years and this is his first proper deployment.”
Plymouth-based HMS Northumberland has temporarily taken over from HMS Montrose in the region. After well-deserved leave the crew will return and deliver the ship to Rosyth in November for upkeep maintenance. The ship has been on four deployments in four years.