The Royal Navy warship HMS Sutherland showed families behind the scenes on board at Plymouth as they celebrated the ship re-entering the operational fleet.
A decades–old ceremony was conducted on the jetty alongside the ship which has newly come out of an extensive re-fit and is now undergoing sea trials to prepare her for potential operations.
The event, with guests from the Royal Navy and families of the crew, celebrated the completion of the work by contractors Babcock and the ship was handed back into the hands of the Royal Navy. Other guests included organisations from their affiliated area of Sutherland.
Guest of Honour was Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Capability), Rear Admiral James Morse, a previous captain of HMS Sutherland. He said: “It’s fabulous to come back. The ship looks immaculate. What’s most impressive is to come and see the people. The current ships company of HMS Sutherland have just paraded magnificently and have worked really hard to get the ship ready for today.’’
The current commanding officer Commander Stephen Anderson said: “HMS Sutherland was launched officially just over 18 years ago with a design life of 18 years. We find ourselves at the end of our design life and with the two-year package we have just gone through will see her regenerate for another 18 years. This is very special because it is a rededication to take us forward back into the fleet, and another 18 years of service to look forward to.”
The Royal Marine Band started the parade. The ship’s company marched from the helicopter hangar, across the gangway onto the jetty parade ground. The guard of honour then marched on to lead the salute from the inspecting officers.
The re-dedication ceremony was presided over by Deputy Chaplain of the Fleet, the Reverend Martin Gough. After the ceremony families were invited to have a tour of the ship and see where their loved ones live and work.
Chef Morgan Spencer-George, age 19, from Caerphilly near Cardiff said “I have really enjoyed the rededication ceremony and I am really proud that my parents were here to see it. This is my first ship in the Royal Navy and I can’t wait to get sea.”
This was a family event as much as a formal celebration with a children’s entertainer and a balloon modeller keeping children amused. The ship’s mascot ‘Ryan the Lion’, taken from the lion that appears on the Sutherland ornate crest, attended. Parents took home ‘mini Ryan’s’ in an initiative to bond the children to the ship in order to make separation from father or mother at sea a bit easier.
Sally Morgan, aged eight, daughter of one of the sailors, said: “Ryan is brilliant. He is so cuddly! When my Daddy is sailing the seas with big Ryan, I can hug little Ryan.”
While at sea the ship sends regular updates to families back home in a newsletter where Ryan is used as a way of telling them what the ship has been doing. Sally added: “Ryan will tell me what he and Daddy are doing on the ship, and I can tell Daddy what me and little Ryan play with.”