IT has been six years, but now HMS Montrose is coming home to her adopted town for the first visit since 2008.
The Plymouth-based Type 23 frigate, which celebrated her 20th anniversary in service with the Royal Navy on June 2, will sail into the harbour early on Tuesday (July 1) for a six-day visit going alongside at North Quay.
It is a much anticipated ‘homecoming’ for the crew and their schedule in Montrose is packed, kicking off on the day she arrives with a capability demonstration on board for invited guests in the evening, including the Duke of Montrose, after whom the ship is named.
The following day (Wednesday July 2), HMS Montrose’s ship’s company will be honoured and humbled to exercise their Freedom of Angus for only the second time since it was conferred in 2002.
With bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying, the ship’s company, led by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Scotland, will parade from the former swimming pool at 6pm and march the full length of Montrose High Street.
The Provost of Angus, Councillor Helen Oswald, will inspect the guard of honour and the ship’s company in the town centre, after which she will take the salute as the ship’s company passes through the High Street.
The VIP party will also include the Lord Lieutenant of Angus, Georgiana Osborne, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland, Captain Chris Smith RN, and the commanding officer of HMS Montrose, Commander James Parkin RN.
The parade will finish in George Street at around 7pm and they will then be guests of Angus Council at a civic reception afterwards in Montrose Town Hall.
On Thursday (July 3), it is the public’s turn to get up close and personal with their own warship when HMS Montrose opens her gangway to visitors from 10am to 5pm – last access to ship at 4pm.
It is a chance to get on board the ship and chat to the crew about Montrose’s role in the Royal Navy and their experience of life on the ocean wave in protecting the nation’s interests at home and further afield, including recent deployments in the Mediterranean, assisting with the removal of chemical weapons in Syria and, more recently, a multinational maritime exercise in the Baltic.
The ship’s busy calendar continues on Saturday when a marching platoon will join colleagues from the Army and RAF to take part in Dundee’s Armed Forces Day parade.
A number of local youth organisations, including Sea Cadets from Grampian, Fife and Tayside, will also get their chance to find out about the ship with pre-arranged tours on board during the weekend.
“This visit has been a long time in the planning and we couldn’t be more delighted to finally bring HMS Montrose back to Montrose for only the fourth time in her 20 years’ service with the Royal Navy,” said Commander Parkin. “I know that my ship’s company is very much looking forward to the honour of exercising our Freedom of Angus and we are relishing the chance to welcome visitors on board from our affiliated area.
“The relationship we have with both Montrose and Angus is one which is very special and important to us – I am delighted to be in command for this return visit after six years and especially in this our special anniversary year.”
Angus Provost, Cllr Oswald, said: “The town is rightly proud of its association with HMS Montrose and has enjoyed, and I am sure will continue to enjoy, an excellent relationship with the ship which bears its name.
“The Freedom Scroll states that the Freedom of Angus is granted ‘In recognition of the long and close association between the ship’s company and the people of Angus and the contribution made by them to the educational and social well-being of our community’.
These may be formal words but they are a sincere record of our appreciation.”
HMS Montrose has just finished taking part in BALTOPS 14, an annual multinational maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea with NATO and Partnership for Peace allies.
Earlier this year, Montrose was operating off the coast of Syria as part of the Danish-led Operation RECSYR, the UN mission tasked with escorting and protecting the merchant shipping that contain the ingredients previously used by Syria to manufacture chemical weapons.
The visit to Montrose is the final time the ship will visit anywhere outside her base port as she is now preparing for a refit later this year. During this 12-month maintenance period, extensive upgrades to the ship's combat and weapons systems are planned, as well as the deep routine engineering work not possible when the ship is at sea. After her refit, the ship will be ready for many more years of service for the Royal Navy.
HMS Montrose was built by Yarrows on the Clyde, launched in 1992 and commissioned into the Fleet in June 1994. She has a crew of around 185 men and women, and has been to Montrose on three occasions in her history - 1999, 2002, and 2008. Designed primarily for the anti-submarine warfare role, the Plymouth-based warship is now designated as a ‘general purpose frigate’ and is fitted with a broad suite of the latest sonar, radar and communications systems. HMS Montrose carries a heavily-armed Lynx helicopter and Sting Ray torpedoes. Air defence is provided by a vertical launch Sea Wolf weapon system. Surface armaments include the Harpoon missile and the 4.5inch gun for naval fire support.
For more background information, including recent activity of the ship, visit the HMS Montrose page on the internet at http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/montrose. You can also catch up with the latest breaking news via the HMS Montrose Twitter feed at http://www.twitter.com/HMS_MONTROSE.
HMS Montrose will sail from Montrose on Monday July 7 at 9.30am.