The UK Royal Navy Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessel HMS Forth (P222) began her first patrol around the Falklands, the service announced.
The 2,000-tonne patrol ship arrived in the South Atlantic islands, after a 9,000-mile journey from Portsmouth, to take on duties of HMS Clyde (P257) which has patrolled around the Falklands and nearby South Georgia Islands for the past dozen years. HMS Clyde, one of four first-generation River-class ships, was decommissioned from the Navy service following her arrival at HM Naval Base Portsmouth on Dec. 20.
Forth picks up where her predecessor left off, working with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and British Army units based in the Falklands, “providing reassurance to locals, visiting inhabitants of the outlying islands, and supporting the territory’s authorities in everything from ceremonial events through to assisting with emergencies”.
Even before the ship arrived at East Cove Military Port, about 30 miles southwest of the Falklands’ capital Stanley, she was working with two RAF Typhoon interceptors to see how the air and naval forces can work together. As with Clyde before her, Forth will operate from East Cove Military Port – there’s a small, specialist team of Royal Navy engineers on-site to support her – with one-third of the ship’s company changing every few weeks to keep her on station as long as possible.
Once at the remote port, the Commander of British Forces South Atlantic, Brigadier Nick Sawyer, was on hand to welcome Forth to the islands, stepping aboard to chat with Commanding Officer Commander Bob Laverty and his team.
The journey to the Falklands took Forth to Gibraltar and Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands.
In the latter, the ship’s company paid their respects to British sailors buried in the Municipal Cemetery, where AB Craig Pollock paid tribute to fellow naval reservist T Henderson, laying a wreath on the grave of the 17-year-old Shetlander who died serving with cruiser HMS Donegal on convoy duties in 1916.
From Cape Verde, the ship faced a 16-day, 5,200-mile voyage to her new home – a journey which meant she was at sea over both Christmas and New Year.
That included passing over the Equator and upholding the nautical tradition of the ‘Crossing the Line’ ceremony, paying homage to King Neptune and his band of dubious characters from under the ocean, followed by a ‘hands to bathe’ – allowing all on board to swim in the Atlantic with nothing beneath them but more than 4,000 metres of water.
HMS Forth is the first of the Royal Navy’s five next-generation patrol ships.
As well as being nearly a generation ahead of their forebears, the five new Rivers (HMS Medway is in service, HMS Trent is about to be handed over, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey are nearing completion) are bigger, faster, more heavily armed, able to land and refuel Wildcat and Merlin helicopters, carry more than 50 troops on missions if needed, and can stay at sea a fortnight longer than the original quartet.