Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose returns home to a party atmosphere on Wednesday (22 December) after nearly five months away on a hard-hitting counter-piracy patrol.
The crew are expecting a warm welcome from about 400 families and friends welcoming her home after her action-packed deployment to HM Naval Base, Devonport, just in time for Christmas. A festive flavour is promised with families given gifts and entertainment provided for children, all accompanied Her Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines.
The ship’s commanding officer, Commander Jonathan Lett, said: “It has a been very rewarding deployment where we have sent a very clear message to the Somali Pirates, that coalition forces are still willing to take the fight to them, but it is now time to hand the baton to our successors and return to the UK for a very well-earned break.”
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, however 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.
Some lucky family members had an early reunion with their relatives by joining the ship in Gibraltar for the final leg home across the Bay of Biscay. First off the ship in Devonport (ahead of the captain) will be the ship’s helicopter ground crew who remained on board after the helicopter flew off the ship to return to its base at Yeovilton. But this is not a case of jumping the queue to be off first – the flight paid for this distinction by donating cash to an ‘auction of promises’ to be the first to meet up with their loved ones on the jetty. The auction raised £1,500 for her chosen charities.
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.