BRITAIN’S newest operational warship has made her debut in the Mediterranean ahead of her deployment to the Falkland Islands later this year.
Portsmouth-based patrol ship HMS Forth paid her first visit to Gibraltar following an extensive period of training off the Scottish coast.
The 2,000-tonne warship spent five days in the shadow of The Rock after being thrashed around in the Atlantic.
It comes ahead of her inaugural mission to the Falklands to replace HMS Clyde as the guardship of the British territory.
And as a reward for the punishing training serial, Forth’s crew was given a chance to take a break in Gibraltar, sampling the wildlife, nightlife and military history.
For many on board, this was their first visit to Gibraltar, such as 18-year-old weapon engineer Liam Kerr.
‘I had a fantastic time in Gibraltar after hearing so many positive stories about it from the rest of the ship’s company,’ he said. ‘The local people were extremely friendly and made us feel very welcome – I couldn’t have wished for a better first foreign run ashore.’
HMS Forth, the first of five new offshore patrol ships, has already conducted a fishery protection patrol, inspected trawlers and shadowed a Russian warship through the Channel.
During her time in Gibraltar, Forth’s crew was given a behind-the-scenes tour of The Rock – notably the tunnel defences carved in it during the Second World War.
Gibraltar also proved a useful stop to test a crew changeover overseas for the first time; Forth will be deployed with one third of her ship’s company either on leave or training back in the UK, while their shipmates conduct patrols, trading places every few weeks to allow the vessel to remain at sea more frequently.
‘HMS Forth’s inaugural visit to Gibraltar has been a delight and the welcome we have received from everyone on The Rock has been incredible,’ added Lieutenant Samuel Fields, the ship’s executive officer.
‘To sail HMS Forth out of HMNB Gibraltar is a huge honour and we look forward to returning in the near future.’
The ship is now continuing her training, patrols and preparations to head to the south Atlantic later this year.