HMS Montrose, one of the destroyers Capt Wm. Tennant (SNO Dunkirk) ordered into Dunkirk harbour on 28 May 1940.
HMS MONTROSE© IWM (FL 16379)
For the much-reduced Royal Navy and “austerity Britain”, this is a *BIG* deployment.
Royal Navy sails for annual ‘Cougar’ deployment
Thousands of Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel will leave the UK on Monday (12 August) for an annual deployment to the Mediterranean and Gulf region – Cougar ’13.
The long-planned deployment will see elements of the UK’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – the naval force formed under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review – hone its world class maritime skills thousands of miles from home through exercises with a number of key allies.
Four Royal Navy warships, the Lead Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and elements of Naval Air Squadrons will be supported by five vessels from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
This is the third time the deployment has taken place, after Cougars ’11 and ’12, with its aim to demonstrate the ability to operate a highly effective maritime force anywhere in the world to protect UK interests.
Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond MP, said:
“Since its creation under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Response Force Task Group has demonstrated its formidable strength and readiness to respond to emerging threats worldwide through a number of operations and exercises.
“This now routine and long-planned deployment will demonstrate once again its ability to operate as a rapid reaction force on behalf of the UK and, importantly, underlines the global reach and flexibility of the modern Royal Navy.”
The Task Group is able to conduct simultaneously a range of operations from deterring adversaries and maritime security to international engagement and supporting regional stability.
Its units can operate independently on discrete tasks or as a single entity.
Most importantly, it is an adaptable force that is able to work jointly with Army and Royal Air Force assets, other government agencies and partner nations when required.
After a number of planned port visits in the Mediterranean, the first major exercise for the force will be Albanian Lion, in the Adriatic.
Personnel will work with Albania’s armed forces, building on a similar exercise last year, with the goal to put the Lead Commando Group ashore within a high tempo scenario and sustain it as it moves inland.
The ships will then sail through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf where the focus will transfer to the series of exercises with UK allies in the Gulf region; alongside Army and RAF units.
Commodore Paddy McAlpine, Commander UK Task Group, said:
“Cougar ’13 is a bespoke opportunity to enhance the Royal Navy’s enduring core skill – the ability to operate and project power as a task group at range. In so doing, it will also remind interested domestic and international parties of the enduring utility, employability and interoperability of the Royal Navy.
“During Cougar ’13 we will engage with our partner nations through a series of exercises, reinforcing our commitment and demonstrating our contribution to security in the Mediterranean and Gulf region.”
Commodore McAlpine and his staff will command from the nation’s flagship HMS Bulwark. Alongside Brigadier Stuart Birrell (Commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines) he will choreograph the efforts of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors, Royal Marine Commandos and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm personnel.
Joining Bulwark will be Portsmouth-based helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious and frigates HMS Montrose (Plymouth) and HMS Westminster (Portsmouth) to provide escort duties, as well as undertake ongoing counter-piracy operations outside the exercise programme.
HMS Montrose is also due to reprise her role from Cougar ‘12 as the launch pad for small Royal Marines reconnaissance parties, which are sent ashore to scout the lie of the land and ‘enemy’ forces.
The Royal Marines will be embarking HMS Bulwark, RFA Mounts Bay and RFA Lyme Bay: the nation’s Lead Commando Group, including 42 Commando, elements of 30 Commando IX Group, and the Commando Logistics Regiment who will meet all the supply and medical needs and 16 Vikings of the Corps’ Armoured Support Group.
A number of Army Commandos from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment will also deploy as part of the Lead Commando Group.
Brigadier Stuart Birrell, Commander 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, said:
“Cougar ’13 provides a superb opportunity to demonstrate the capability and capacity of the Response Force Task Group and the Lead Commando Group. Operating in a wide variety of countries across the Mediterranean and Gulf region, the task group will engage in capacity building and defence engagement with a range of partner nations, in some truly outstanding exercises.
“A demanding and ambitious deployment, we will look forward to the challenges and opportunities that Cougar ’13 presents.”
RFA Fort Austin will provide stores, fuel, water, and ammunition and RFA Diligence is on hand to attend to any of the Cougar ’13 ship’s engineering requirements.
The majority of the Task Group is due home to the UK in December, although Diligence, Westminster and Montrose are due to remain east of Suez in support of the Navy’s long-standing mission in the region to keep the sea lanes safe and secure for lawful trade.
HMS Montrose is “the most Scottish ship in the fleet” (says so in the press release, so it must be true) which makes you wonder if an independent Scotland (don’t laugh, they’re serious) will ask for Montrose as part of the divorce settlement?
The Queen of the Seas meets the Lord of the Isles – HMS Montrose encounters her civilian cousin
On her travels, she repeatedly passed the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry MV Lord Of The Isles, a car and passenger ferry that operates around the islands of the North West of Scotland.
The Type 23 frigate passes countless ferries throughout the world, but this one was rather more special for the ship, as both vessels share a common link dating back to when they were both launched over 2 decades ago, namely the lady who launched them both – Lady Rifkind.
In the Spring of 1989, The Rt Hon Malcolm Rifkind was the Secretary of State for Scotland, and MP for Edinburgh Pentlands, and his wife Edith was asked to launch the brand new ferry.
Having been built in Port Glasgow for CalMac, the LOTI (as she is affectionately known) has been employed in Scottish seas ever since, on a variety of routes, although she mainly operates from Oban, in Argyll and Bute.
Conversely, although HMS Montrose is the most Scottish ship in the Fleet, she is only able to visit Scottish waters once or twice a year, as she is based in Devonport naval base in the South West of England.
The frigate itself is named after the Duke of Montrose, who takes his title from the ancient town of Montrose in Angus, and – just like the Lord Of The Isles – was built on the Clyde.
In July 1992, and with Malcolm Rifkind having been appointed Secretary of State for Defence three months previously, his wife Edith duly broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the bows of Montrose in Yarrows Shipbuilders to launch the ship, and thus started a relationship with the sailors on board that endures today.
Since Sir Malcolm (as he now is) was elected as the MP for Kensington and Chelsea in 1997, he and Lady Rifkind now divide their time between London and Scotland, but this geographical separation does not prevent the excellent ongoing relationship between HMS Montrose and her sponsor, and Lady Rifkind is still regularly in contact with the ship, as she has been for the past 21 years.
The chance meeting between Lady Rifkind’s two ships was not lost on HMS Montrose’s Commanding Officer, Commander James Parkin, he said:
“When we first encountered the Lord Of The Isles off Lochboisdale, it instantly rang some bells.
“Once I realised our shared connection, I realised how rare it must be for a passenger vessel and a warship to be launched by the same person, and then encounter each other at sea over 20 years later.
“It was wonderful for Montrose to meet her Scottish cousin again, and I was delighted to be able to inform Lady Rifkind of the meeting.
“After we return from our operational deployment in 2014, I look forward our returning to Scottish waters to further cement our connections up here.”