A new commanding officer has taken over the helm of the Plymouth-based Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland while the ship undertakes an intensive training period.
Commander Al Wilson was born in London and spent his childhood in the west coast of Scotland, attending Dunoon Grammar School and the West of Scotland College of Agriculture before joining the Royal Navy in 1993.
Commander Wilson now lives in Hampshire with his wife Lucy, a jewellery designer, and his two young sons. He said: “The team has worked very hard to ensure we are ready to optimise our broad range of capabilities ahead of any future deployments that will require us to deliver a professional and flexible presence.
“The next six weeks of intensive training will consolidate and develop our skills further including working with warships from other nations.”
The operational sea training HMS Sutherland is undergoing is designed to expose the ship and her crew to challenges across the full range of war-fighting roles and also potential tasks such as counter-piracy and disaster relief.
Commander Wilson has previously served on ships including Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond and Plymouth-based ships HMS Montrose and HMS Somerset, which included a seven-month deployment to the Gulf on Operation in the Arabian Gulf in 2005.
He was appointed as a staff officer on the UK maritime battle staff, conducting operations and exercises across the globe, including the evacuation of UK citizens from Beirut in July 2006 and latterly coordinating the daily running of the battle staff HQ in Portsmouth.
From 2008-10, he commanded both the offshore patrol vessel HMS Mersey on fishery protection duties and HMS Clyde in the South Atlantic. He then spent a year attending the advanced command and staff course, graduating with a Masters degree in Defence Studies from King’s College, London.
Selected for promotion to commander in June 2010, he then assumed command of HMS Sutherland.
Commander Wilson is a keen horseman, playing polo for the Navy and his other interests include shooting, keeping fit and most country pursuits.
Powerful and versatile with the capability to operate anywhere in the world, the frigate is the mainstay of the modern surface fleet. The effectiveness of these ships is enhanced by their stealth design which significantly reduces their radar signature and enables them to search for submarines using her state-of-the-art sonar systems with less likelihood of being detected by the prey.
The ship can conduct a range of other tasks including embargo operations using boarding teams sent by the ship’s boats or helicopter, disaster relief work and surveillance operations.
The present HMS Sutherland is the third to bear the name and has seen service all over the world, from the frozen seas of both the Arctic and the South Atlantic to the tropical heat of the Caribbean and the Far East.
HMS Sutherland was built by Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd on the Clyde and was launched in 1996 by Lady Christina Walmsley. The ship completed a major refit in 2009 which provided a significant uplift in her capability to make her one of the most modern frigates in the world.