Eighteen months of intensive training and assessment for the men and women of HMS Monmouth will now be put to the test on a nine-month stint in the Gulf.
The frigate sailed from a wet Plymouth ready to take up the struggle against smugglers, terrorists, drug and people traffickers.
Pictures: L(Phots) Caroline Davies and Ken Gaunt
AND you won’t see them again until Christmas…
A youngster wrapped up against the elements looks forlornly towards HMS Monmouth as the frigate departs a very wet Plymouth bound for nine gruelling months in the Gulf.
Eighteen months of demanding trials, tests and training came to an end for the Black Duke as she left her native Devonport, watched by a handful of hardy loved ones who braved the elements to wave the Type 23 frigate off from Devil’s Point.
They endured the wind and rain because in most cases, they won’t see their relatives or the ship again until nearly Christmas.
Monmouth’s mission? To clamp down on piracy, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, terrorism and other criminal activity in the Indian Ocean and Gulf, and generally support the RN’s allies in the region.
Preparations for the extended stint in the Middle East, where Monmouth will take over from HMS Daring whose nine-month tour of duty is into its final third, ramped up over the past six months.
The frigate completed two demanding periods of Operational Sea Training – which readies ships and submarines for front-line duties – and a short period of maintenance to ensure all 4,500 tonnes of warship is ready for a challenging deployment.
Monmouth sails east crammed to the rafters with men and women – more than 220 souls aboard a ship originally designed for about 180-190; the numbers are bolstered in part by the presence of a specialist Royal Marines boarding team to conduct searches of suspicious vessels.
In between making final preparations to deploy and setting sail the ship’s company were granted leave to spend time with families and loved ones and will get an opportunity mid-deployment to return to the UK for some well earned rest and relaxation.
“I’m proud to be sailing on my first deployment, not only because it’s something I’ve trained so long for but also because it’s clear how important this deployment is,” said Sub Lt Gordon Pickthall.
“Nine months is a long time to be away from my family, but they know how important this job is, and how unique of an opportunity this is for me to visit parts of the world most people rarely see; it’s what I signed up to do!”
His Commanding Officer, Cdr Ian Feasey, said after 18 months of preparations and intensive training, the Black Duke was ready to show her mettle on the front line.
“We leave Devonport ready for operations, and with a keen fighting spirit, supported by the families we leave behind until December.
“We are under no illusion how critical Monmouth’s presence in the Gulf region will be in the face of an uncertain political climate, and we look forward to ensuring UK trade and regional stability throughout our time away.”