HMS Tamar’s Pacific Odyssey renews islands ties after nearly 100 years
HMS Tamar became the first British warship to visit the fourth smallest country on the planet in nearly 100 years on an international goodwill mission. Not since May 1925 have the people of the Republic of Palau seen the White Ensign, when minesweeper HMS Bluebell called in on the archipelago, which sits some 500 miles east of the Philippines.
Nearly a century later Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Tamar arrived in Malakal Harbour off the capital Koror as part of a US-led peace/goodwill mission, accompanied by the 1,000-bed hospital ship USNS Mercy.
The latter is flagship of Pacific Partnership 22, a two-month deployment to remote communities around the Indo-Pacific, supported by the US allies, delivering medical aid and assistance, supporting community projects, assisting with infrastructure and taking part in sporting and community activities.
A Royal Navy officer (Captain Charles Maynard) is the deputy commander of the mission from the USNS Mercy, as well as RN medical officer Lieutenant Lesley Hailey, part of the international team on the hospital ship.
Now Tamar – on a five-year mission with her sister HMS Spey as part of the UK’s ‘tilt’ back to the Indo-Pacific – has joined Pacific Partnership 22 for the deployment’s closing weeks.
During the six-day visit to Palau, Tamar hosted its President, Surangel Whipps Jr and numerous senior government officials to show what the ship and her men and women are capable of, before throwing open the gangway to some of the country’s 18,000 inhabitants.
There were discussions on how the nations involved in Pacific Partnership - Australia, Japan, the UK and the USA – could provide assistance, specifically related to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and medical exchanges.
And with the Mercy ‘in town’, her medical teams worked with the hosts in sharing guidance and expertise on a wealth of health and wellbeing issues: paediatric, maternity, neonatal, intensive and critical care, mental health for military veterans, and physical therapy.
Meanwhile, Tamar’s sailors had the chance to explore islands few Britons have visited, including UNESCO World Heritage sites across the archipelago, and learn about the efforts the people of Palau are taking towards conservation.
“It’s been a privilege to bring the first Royal Navy warship into Palau for almost 100 years,” said Lieutenant Commander Matt Millyard, HMS Tamar’s Executive Officer.
“We learned a great deal from each other and with Tamar now an enduring presence here I look forward to continuing to build our partnerships in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.”