HMS Lancaster leaves Portsmouth on deployment of 'firsts'

Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster sailed from her home in Portsmouth on Saturday 21 March for a routine nine-month Atlantic patrol tasking, waved off by hundreds of well-wishing friends and family.

HMS Lancaster is the first ship in the Royal Navy to deploy with the new Wildcat helicopter, and her crew are wearing the newest naval uniform in 70 years. She also takes with her the first ever Royal Marine chef to ply his trade on the ocean waves rather than on dry land.

The Wildcat is the latest generation of multi role helicopter for the Royal Navy. It looks much like its predecessor, possessing many of its outstanding characteristics, but is leaps ahead in many ways. 

The engines and tail rotor system are considerably more powerful and the cabin is much improved with state-of-the-art cockpit instruments, hi-tech communications and cutting-edge targeting systems. 

Extremely versatile, the Wildcat is designed for a variety of roles – anti-ship, anti-submarine, ship protection, casualty evacuation, battlefield reconnaissance and general utility.

HMS Lancaster’s crew are the first to deploy on operations wearing the Royal Navy’s new uniform. The new rig replaces the Action Working Dress known as No4s – the traditional lighter-blue shirt and trousers worn by sailors at sea – and is the first major change to naval dress since the Second World War.

In many ways it’s a ground-breaking deployment for the Royal Navy, as we are taking new capabilities and equipment on operations for the first time

Commander Peter Laughton, HMS Lancaster’s Commanding Officer

The clothing which is now dark blue, more modern, comfortable and fire retardant can be adapted to different climates. It offers more protection from flash fires and carries more Royal Navy branding, notably a large White Ensign on the left shoulder. Badges denoting rank are now worn at the front rather than on the shoulders.

Corporal Liam Eley, 35, is the first Royal Marine chef to join the crew of a Royal Navy warship since the Corps formed in 1664. His chance to join a ship is due to the recent merger of chef branches in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. 

Royal Navy chefs have already worked with Royal Marines across the country and overseas but Cpl Eley is the first to switch the opposite way.

Lancaster’s Commanding Officer, Commander Peter Laughton, said: “In many ways it’s a ground-breaking deployment for the Royal Navy, as we are taking new capabilities and equipment on operations for the first time. 

"The ship’s new Wildcat helicopter is state of the art and will become the Royal Navy’s primary maritime aircraft. 

"The ship’s company is kitted out in a new uniform designed for additional comfort and to cope better with the temperature extremes of the areas in which we may be tasked to operate. 

"We also have a Royal Marine Chef fully integrated into our ship’s company for the first time in naval history.”

The ship will take over from HMS Dragon and expects to cover in excess of 30,000 nautical miles and visit up to eighteen different countries.

The deployment, which takes the ship across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, will build on the UK’s strong ties with its allies and continue the UK’s commitment to the region. 

This is the third Portsmouth-based ship to leave on operations this month, following HMS Duncan and HMS Richmond.