A new era in Royal Navy operations in the Middle East begins today with the arrival of HMS Montrose in Bahrain – ready to begin a three-year mission.
After an epic six-month, 47,000-mile journey from her home in Plymouth, the frigate sailed into the Navy’s new support facility in the Gulf kingdom, the hub of Britain’s naval operations east of Suez.
From there she will conduct regular patrols dealing with drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean – where HMS Dragon scored a record-breaking eight busts over the winter – supporting counter-terrorism and counter-smuggling operations, and work with Middle East and allied navies to ensure the safety and security of this key region.
Instead of returning home to the UK after a six to nine-month deployment, Montrose is being stationed in Bahrain until 2022 to ensure a permanent presence and spare warships the lengthy passage to and from Britain, time which could be spent on patrol in the Middle East.
“Today marks a significant milestone for us – it is the end of our global voyage but the start of our period stationed in the Middle East,” said Commander Conor O’Neill, Montrose’s Commanding Officer.
“I am immensely proud of all that we have achieved during our voyage to Bahrain, from hosting royalty in Chile, deepening our relationships with allies, sharpening our war-fighting edge in exercises with the Japanese, to our success enforcing sanctions against North Korea.
“We now have the time to recuperate; making use of the excellent new facilities of the United Kingdom Naval Support Facility before handing over to our opposite numbers.”
Montrose has enjoyed an adventurous six months reaching the Gulf, sailing the ‘wrong way’ around the world via the Pacific, visiting countries and islands not called at by Royal Navy warships in many years.
To date she has:
-- supported counter-drugs operations in the Caribbean;
-- represented the UK at the 200th anniversary of the Chilean Navy where the ship hosted the Princess Royal and the First Sea Lord;
-- visited Easter Island at Christmas and Pitcairn Island, last resting place of the Bounty;
-- helped the international fight against plastics in the oceans by surveying Pacific islands;
-- trained with the French Navy in Tahiti;
-- enjoyed visits to Auckland in New Zealand, Darwin in Australia, Singapore, Tokyo, Brunei and Colombo in Sri Lanka;
-- enforced UN sanctions against North Korea to prevent fuel smuggling;
-- worked side-by-side with the US and Japanese Navies on a combined anti-submarine exercise; and
-- finally carried out boardings of suspicious vessels in the Indian Ocean in preparation for her long-term mission in the region.
The men and women who brought the ship to Bahrain will shortly return to the UK, swapping places with another frigate crew from Plymouth.
They will take HMS Montrose to sea once more after she’s undergone a short period of maintenance following her six-month voyage out from Britain.
The senior Royal Navy commander in the Middle East theatre, Commodore Steve Dainton, UK Maritime Component Commander, who directs naval operations from his headquarters in Bahrain said Montrose’s long-term presence demonstrated “the UK’s commitment to the whole Middle East region. The Royal Navy is here to help protect the UK’s overseas interests and promote regional security and resilience.
“HMS Montrose will fulfil a vital role along with our mine countermeasure vessels and the support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay. It is clear we will have significantly enhanced the scope and capacity of our operations throughout the region.”