Navy bids farewell to ‘a fine ship’ as stalwart frigate HMS Montrose is retired
At 11.20am nearly 200 members of her ship’s company turned to face the vessel as the White Ensign was lowered on her flight deck and the frigate passed into history.
Families, former crew, representatives of the warship’s many affiliates, including from her namesake town in northeast Scotland, converged on Portsmouth Naval Base for the final act in the ship’s career.
Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Martin Connell was guest of honour at a short service, led by Royal Navy chaplain Tudor Thomas-Botwood, celebrating the deeds of Montrose since she joined the Fleet in 1994 and especially all those who served in her.
Commander Claire Thompson, Montrose’s 20th and final commanding officer, said today’s ceremony had been an apt end to her ship’s proud career under the White Ensign.
“It’s been a truly special occasion officially decommissioning this fine ship after 30 years’ service to both her monarchs and her country.
“As the final ship’s company it is with immense pride that we lowered the Ensign today and we did it on behalf of the thousands of men and women who have had the privilege of calling HMS Montrose home.“It’s been was an honour to host the Second Sea Lord, the ship’s affiliates, friends and family, and former shipmates during the ceremony and it has been a fitting end to very distinguished service.”
Leading Engineering Technician Anthony Ball is Montrose’s final ‘sailor of the year’, so the ship is fixed firmly in his heart.
“I joined HMS Montrose in January 2020 and I’ve done five tours of duty out to Bahrain,” said the marine engineer who was recognised, not least, for fixing the systems which kept the ship cool in the searing heat of the Middle East.
“It’s a shame to see such a good ship come to the end of its Service but I’m proud to have served in her and I’ve had a great time with my shipmates in these three years.
“I’ve got loads of good memories from three visits to Dubai, including a New Year’s Eve Party, a visit to Abu Dhabi and a special trip to the Seychelles on the ship’s journey home to the UK.”
Some crew will stay with Montrose through the decommissioning process as the ship is prepared for disposal – her ultimate fate has yet to be determined – while others will begin dispersing around the rest of the Royal Navy.
Based in Plymouth for the vast majority of her career, Montrose was the seventh ship in the class of 16 Duke-class frigates to be laid down (back in 1989) and the eighth to be commissioned (1994).
Sponsored by the late Lady Rifkind, whose husband was Defence Secretary in the early 1990s, HMS Montrose has been commanded by 20 men and women since Commander John Arrow first took the reins back in 1993.
Among previous commanding officers are Vice Admirals Sir Timothy Laurence, the Princess Royal’s husband, and Tony Johnstone-Burt who is Master of the Household for the Royal Households.
There are few parts of the world the frigate has not seen in her 29-year active life as she clocked up more than 400,000 miles on duties at home and overseas.
Most recently she has spent four years constantly deployed on operations, almost exclusively in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
During that time, Montrose made ten drug busts seizing 16 tonnes of illegal narcotics, seized illegal shipments of missiles and cruise missile engines, and helped safely guide some 130 merchant vessels through potentially dangerous maritime choke points.
The ship returned to Devonport in December last year to a rapturous welcome from friends and families.
Since then she has operated around the UK and paid a farewell visit to her namesake town in northeastern Scotland.
As a general-duty frigate she will be replaced by one of the five Type 31 Inspiration-class frigates under construction in Rosyth. The first, HMS Venturer, is due in the water later this year.