Royal Navy sailors are abroad - and on short notice - to keep the UK safe this Christmas
Thousands of sailors and Royal Marines stand ready to keep Britain safe this Christmas, from the land of the Rising Sun to the frozen Arctic and grey Atlantic.
More than 3,500 Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm personnel are either on duty or at short notice to respond to events at home and abroad over the festive period.
Nearly 1,300 men and women across eight ships – frigate HMS Montrose, destroyer HMS Defender, minehunters HMS Ledbury, HMS Blyth, HMS Shoreham and HMS Brocklesby, and RFAs Cardigan Bay and Wave Knight – are keeping shipping safe and ensuring the free flow of trade in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
Survey ship HMS Enterprise is taking a break from gathering data about the waters of the Asia-Pacific region, where she’s been for much of the autumn, by visiting South Korea.
After an autumn on-call to respond to natural disasters, including ten days assisting in the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, RFA Mounts Bay remains in the Caribbean, preparing for her winter role – supporting the international fight against drug trafficking.
HMS Forth will spend her first Christmas in the South Atlantic as she takes up the role of the Royal Navy’s permanent presence around the Falklands from HMS Clyde, which retired from service last week after 12 years based in the remote British territory.
Forth is joined in the southern hemisphere by survey ship HMS Scott, which is mapping the waters of the South Atlantic and is due to head to Antarctica in the New Year on a scientific mission.
With 49 people aboard, Scott will be at anchor off the Falklands on December 25.
‘This will be the first Christmas at sea for at least half of the ship’s company,’ said Lieutenant Pippa Wesley, one of Scott’s hydrographic survey officers.
‘We’ll receive a forces’ gift tin each and all have a Christmas dinner served by the officers in the wardroom.”
As there has been continuously for 50 years, one submarine is carrying out Defence’s number one mission: the nuclear deterrent patrol.
December 25 will be a day like any other for the 130 men and women aboard the Vanguard-class submarine, submerged, cut off from the world, working six-hour shifts.
All these missions, as well as operations in home waters and the UK’s immediate sphere of interest, demand the support of more than 3,000 Naval Service personnel in Britain, from bomb disposal experts to naval nurses, doctors and surgeons working in NHS hospitals such as Derriford in Plymouth and Queen Alexandra in Portsmouth.
HMS Westminster is the UK’s on-call frigate this festive period, her 200-strong ship’s company reconciled – like their colleagues in the South Atlantic, Gulf and Far East – to being away from home on December 25.
Operations allowing, they will mark Christmas Day in the traditional naval manner – opening presents, dinner served by officers, the most junior sailor aboard ‘put in charge’ for the day and phone calls home to speak to loved ones.
Britain’s most senior sailor, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin, said the Naval Service had ,delivered in spades all over the world, this year.
‘Thank you to all for what has been achieved this year – 2019 really has been remarkable. And thank you to the families and friends who support us,’ he said.
‘For those on duty – keep us safe and thanks for your – and your families’ – sacrifice.’