Queen's Frigate takes a rest in Gibraltar
‘The Queen’s Frigate’ HMS Lancaster – named so after it was launched by the monarch in 1990- is currently in Gibraltar as she nears the end of a nine month deployment.
The Type 23 frigate recently sailed over 30,000 nautical miles and made over 23 port visits to 18 countries in the South Atlantic while performing a role known as Atlantic Patrol Tasking.
HMS Lancaster is the first of three ships in the Navy that have deployed for nine months and the only one that was Atlantic deployed, the other two went to the Middle East, Gulf regions and the Indian Ocean.
She is the first ship in the Royal Navy to deploy with the new Wildcat helicopter, and her crew wears the newest naval uniform in 70 years.
The nine month deployment saw HMS Lancaster cross the North Atlantic across to America, through the Caribbean, stopping in Bermuda and then advanced to New Orleans where the crew joined in the notorious Fleet Week celebrations.
From there HMS Lancaster went down through the Panama Canal and down the west coast of South America taking in Columbia and Chile, sailing around the Cape Hope and back across the Atlantic stopping off at Tristan de Cunha and the Falklands before reaching South Africa.
Leaving South Africa HMS Lancaster travelled up the west coast of Africa stopping at Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde Islands before crossing into Algeria and finally towards the Rock.
Giving the Chronicle a rundown of the nine month deployment was second in command Lt Cdr James (Jim) Thomson.
He said: “It has had its amazements and its challenges, with time away, separation as well as all the different places we have been to, so it has been for me as second in command dealing with the people their welfare it’s how to balance those and delivering on everything the Navy needs us to do.”
Speaking about the most challenging place of the nine months he said: “I guess probably the African countries in that they are all unknown so there is very little experienced sailors and there was challenges re stores support because they do not have as good infrastructure and supply as some of the other places and it’s very different culturally.”
“Without question however, we were received amazingly well from all of them. It has been a real interesting eye opener and very contrasting in compared to the early part in deployment like New Orleans or Chile which are more regularly visited by the Royal Navy.”
HMS Lancaster arrived in Sierra Leone two days after it was declared Ebola free, Lt Cdr Thomson called that an amazing experience and eye opening.
When asked what could be the favorite place he said: “If we took a vote today I guess it would be split between Cape Town and New Orleans, the lads like a bit of razzmatazz and the variety.”
The ship’s company spent six days in both places given them a chance to relax and enjoy themselves a little.
While in Ghana the ships’ company conducted a joint training session with the Ghana Armed Forces and re-decorated a newly built school in Tema.
During their visit to Togo 15 personnel visited an orphanage in Lome to redecorate and brighten up the home. Midshipman Stephen Fotherby said: “Helping those who find themselves in less fortunate circumstances than our own, through no fault of their own, was humbling and enlightening. They smile and laugh whilst living in the toughest of circumstances.”
While in Gibraltar the Commander of the British Forces (CBF) Ian McGhie conducted an award ceremony where Petty Officer (Underwater Warfare) Cunningham received his Long Service and Good Conduct medal; Leading Regulator Luke Skilton received his Naval Base Commander’s Commendation.
Receiving their efficiency awards was Able Seaman Henry Bower; Engineering Technician (Marine Engineer) Ricky Manning; Leading Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineer) Ryan Stephens; Writer Chris Jamieson and Petty Officer Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineer) Michael Hearn.
When HMS Lancaster arrives back in the UK it will first dock in Plymouth where family members will join the ship’s company onboard and to the final destination of Portsmouth.
She will then go into what is known as reduced readiness for the next year to 18 months she will be in maintenance and will come out of that fully by the end of 2017, complete with new equipment she will be ready to take to the seas once again.
HMS Lancaster leaves Gibraltar on Saturday. The ship’s company is expected to take part in the infamous Rock Run on Friday.