The Royal Navy warship HMS Montrose was given a rapturous welcome by hundreds of overjoyed families and friends as she returned home to Plymouth after successful operations, including supporting Operation RECSYR, the international effort to remove chemicals from Syria.
The frigate sailed into HM Naval Base, Devonport, to a heroes’ welcome from over 500 family and friends on the jetty with banners, cheering and a few tears following a successful seven-month deployment including 32,000 miles and visits to 12 ports in ten countries. The HM Royal Marines Band from the Royal Marines training base at Lympstone entertained the families while they waited in the sunshine as the ship loomed through early sea mist and tied up.
The ship initially sailed into the Mediterranean in August with a number of other warships as part of the Response Force Task Group for Cougar 2013, designed to exercise to enhance the Royal Navy’s skill at operating at long range from land the UK and other support. They then went into the Persian Gulf conducting maritime security and reassurance patrols alongside partner nations in the region; safeguarding the sea lanes of the Middle East.
From there the ship moved into the Persian Gulf as the UK’s primary maritime policing patrol in November. A new tasking followed when the ship went straight into action when directed into the Eastern Mediterranean to join Operation RECSYR– the Danish-led mission to remove chemicals from Syria. After arriving off the coast of Syria in mid January, HMS Montrose and a multi-national task group of warships from Denmark and Norway carried out escort and close protection duties of two merchant vessels transporting their cargo out of Syria and through the Mediterranean Sea.
Commander Parkin, praised his highly professional crew for taking each operation in their stride and for winning international plaudits for the tasking which was of international importance. He said: “I am incredibly proud of my ship’s company who have committed themselves to the changing circumstances of this deployment and the professionalism that this mission has demanded. From our work in the Gulf, to our time spent supporting the international mission to remove chemicals from Syria, the deployment has been a success in every one of the many tasks that my team have undertaken.’’
Commander Parkin added: “As you can see from the nations operating in the area, this mission is a statement of intent by the global community and we are extremely proud to have been the United Kingdom’s first contribution to its vital work. Having been re-tasked from operations in the Persian Gulf, my ship’s company and I were all honoured to be part of an operation of such international significance.”
Leading Engineering Technician Tom Baxter, originally from Durham and now Plymouth, hugged his daughter Ruby, 13 months, as she and her mother Terri Allen welcomed him on the jetty. Tom said: “We had a successful deployment.but it’s also so good to be back. Ruby was only six months when I left. She’s a big girl now. She’s lovely. As well as seeing Ruby again after missing half her life so far, I’m looking forward to getting married to my fiancée. Terri and I are going to Cuba to get married. So it’s an extra special homecoming for us.’’
Terri, who works in the Royal Navy at the Royal Navy’s initial training school HMS Raleigh, in Cornwall, said: “I’m really pleased Tom’s back. He can now take his share of the parental duties. I’ll let him a have a little break first of course!’’
First off the ship was Petty Officer Andy Styles,41, who won the honour, usually reserved for the captain, with a winning charity auction bid. He was clasped by his emotional wife Tracey from Dunfermline. He said: “It’s feels really good to be first of the ship – an honour, and I see my wife and family first. The auction bid of £40 was my way of thanking the charity its supporting work. The deployment was full of variety and unexpected taskings. Working with the other navys was very rewarding. We were all very upbeat about the Syrian tasking because it had a definite purpose and outcome which is different from patrolling.’’
Tracey, joined by Andy’s mother Marilyn, said they would be going skiing and mountain bike the West Highland way to wind down after the deployment. She said: “I’m so happy now he’s back. It seems like a long deployment. He’s been in the Navy 24 years and I never fully get used to him being away.’’
Engineering Technician James Roger, 24, of Cambridge, was greeted by his happily tearful girlfriend Jenny, of Plymouth. He said: “What a wonderful welcome from my grandparents, two cousins and Jenny. It’s a special homecoming for me, because from now on Plymouth will be my actual home, rather than just a baseport – jenny and me are moving in together from now on.’’
Jacqi Rawlings, of Skelton, East Cleveland, cheered her boyfriend Leading Hand David Thompson, 40, off HMS Montrose. She said: “I’m so excited he’s back. We’re going for a walk up Roseberry Topping when back home. It’s been a long trip for me waiting back home.’’
Deputy Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Nick Robinson, who helps keep the ship supplied with everything from bullets to butter, said: ‘Over the course of the deployment we have eaten over 12 tonnes of potatoes, which is equivalent to a double decker bus; 2700 kg of Baked Beans or if you prefer, 20 baths full, 2.224 km of sausages, 7000 litres of milk and 24480 eggs.’’
The marine engineers ensured that the diesel and gas turbine engines operated at full capacity. They have used 3,763,000 litres of fuel, enough to send a car to Venus on 50,000 fills.
Arguably the biggest driver of the ship has been the steady supply of messages arriving over from loved ones back home – 787 bags of mail, weighing 6 tonnes. As Sub Lieutenant Tristan ‘Dinger’ Bell said: “Receiving mail from home is vital to morale on board, for some people on board it’s been letters with news, for others It’s been magazines and chocolates. For me it’s been the regular supply of Battenburg cake from my mum!’’
It is not just been mail that has been delivered: Eight proud new fathers are now looking forward to returning home to spend time with their new additions to the family. Chief Petty Officer Ryan Diggle said: “With a new baby at home, being away at sea was always going to provide its own challenges but the thought of returning home to be reunited with my beautiful new daughter has kept me going for the whole seven months. I can’t wait to get her back in my arms and make up for lost time.”
The crew will now take some well-earned leave and the ship begin a short maintenance period before taking up her role as the Royal Navy’s high readiness ‘on-call’ warship, ready to respond to a wide range of short notice tasks from search and rescue duties to maritime security patrols.
• The ship has travelled 32131 nautical miles, at speeds of up to 30 kts.
• The ship has been away from the UK for 212 days.
• Over the course of the deployment MONTROSE has burnt 3,763000 litres of fuel.
• MTRO has produced 2943 tonnes of fresh drinking water (converted from sea water), enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.
• The ship’s Lynx helicopter has burnt 50,000 kgs of fuel, and travelled 15,000 miles through the air at speeds of up to 180 miles an hour.
• 8 members of the Ship’s Company have had babies born while we’ve been away.
• 5 members of the Ship’s Company have proposed while away and are now engaged to be married.
• The ship has received 786 bags of mail weighing in at a combined total of 6 tonnes.
The crew ate:
o Over 12 tonnes of potatoes, equivalent to the weight of a double decker bus.
o 2700 Kg of baked beans, equivalent to the weight of 2 cars.
o 1263 Kg of sausages, which are approximately 2.224 Km in length.
o 24480 Eggs, which is enough for a very big omelette.
o 925 Kg of Bacon, enough to keep the Danish in business for a while.
o 6828 litres of milk, which is more milk than a cow produces in a year, and would fill the Commanding Officer’s bath 50 times.
The ship has visited Greece, Djibouti, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al-Khaimah, Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar.
HMS Montrose has a crew of 185 men and women. She is a general purpose frigate fitted with a broad suite of the latest sonar, radar and communications systems. HMS Montrose carries a Mk 8 Lynx helicopter. Armament includes Sting Ray torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare, vertical-launch Sea Wolf missiles for air-defence, Harpoon missiles and the 4.5inch gun for anti-surface warfare and naval gunfire support onto land.