Long-term supporters and affiliates of HMS Monmouth jumped at the chance to see their ship as few have – from below.
They visited the Black Duke in dry dock in Devonport, wandering underneath her, and talking with the ship’s company about their exploits east of Suez.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Shaun Barlow, FRPU West
TWO dozen people were given the rare chance to inspect a duke’s bottom in Plymouth – and leapt at the opportunity.
The duke in question was HMS Monmouth – the Black Duke – whose bottom is very rarely exposed.
High and dry in dry dock in Devonport’s frigate shed, the ship hosted her affiliates, keen to learn of the recent deeds of ‘their’ warship.
The Type 23 frigate’s undergoing six weeks of maintenance following a demanding seven-month deployment east of Suez last year, including some time out of the water.
Affiliates are used to visiting ships in full fighting form – everything looking spic and span – but who could turn down the chance to walk under 4,500 tonnes of battleship grey?
The ‘dock bottom tour’ was the highlight of the visit for the affiliates, who included Welsh Assembly Member for Monmouth Nick Ramsey, the Lord Lieutenant’s representative Lt Gen Sir Robert Hayman-Joyce, the High Sheriff of Gwent, representatives from Monmouth Town and Monmouthshire County Councils, the Worshipful Company of Drapers, the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) and the Sea Cadets.
The visitors had a packed day; they discussed Monmouth’s recent successes on deployment, were given demonstrations in firefighting, learned about machinery in the ship control centre and experienced a simulated attack by aircraft and anti-ship missiles in the operations room, and above all, they had a good chat with the ship’s company, renewing strong bonds between the ship and the town for which she was named.
“This was a great opportunity to see first-hand the dedication of our Navy to our defences,” said Mr Ramsey. “Monmouth is a great ship, proud to bear our town’s name. The people of Monmouth can be justly proud of the invaluable work being done at sea in our name. Well done HMS Monmouth!”
Simon Sauze of the Worshipful Company of Drapers also left the ship suitably impressed. He said: “Clearly demonstrated was the very important and often dangerous role they play in our defence, as well as the contribution they make to stability in other, less predictable, regions of the globe.”
The Black Duke will soon be returning to sea to prepare for a gruelling period of Operational Sea Training ahead of another deployment later this year.
“This was an excellent opportunity for us to build on the strong links we have with ‘our’ town and to give our affiliates the chance to view the Ship from an unusual vantage point,” said Cdr Dean Bassett, Monmouth’s CO.
“Our affiliates have been strong supporters of HMS Monmouth and are very much part of the wider ‘Black Duke’ family. It was a pleasure to host them onboard.”