Somerset drops in on Viking celebrations in Shetlands

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet

Frigate HMS Somerset became the first major British warship to call on the Shetland Islands in three decades when she paid a whistle-stop visit to Lerwick.

Having escorted a brand-new Chinese frigate through the Dover Strait, Somerset broke away to take part in NATO anti-submarine exercises off the coast of Norway.

Before that however, the ship made a brief stop in the Shetland capital to take on supplies.

Despite the rather impromptu nature of the visit, the ship’s company somehow found time to squeeze in:

  • hosting the local media for her arrival – the journalists apparently 'really enjoyed' the boat transfer in chopper seas
  • tours of the vessel for local Army reservists, cadets and students from the islands’ engineering college
  • a rig run, which went down very well with locals
  • participation in the islands’ midsummer carnival – a volunteer platoon surreptitiously slipped into the lines of locals (mostly dressed in Viking costumes, some of them costing £2,000) parading through the heart of Lerwick.
  • and, on a more solemn note, a wreath was laid on the local war memorial to remember Shetlanders who gave their lives in two world wars.

Although smaller RN vessels have visited the islands – which lie 50 miles northeast of Orkney – frigates and destroyers very rarely venture this way.

“This was the first time a major surface vessel had visited the port for around 30 years,” said Lt Cdr Brendan Keane, the frigate’s weapon engineer officer.

“A great deal of effort in a short space of time – and at short notice – provided some positive publicity and the visit was enjoyed by both the ship’s company and the people of Shetland.

“Many local people taking an interest in the ship, both alongside and onlookers as we arrived and sailed."

Among them, one seal which kept an eye on Somerset throughout her time while berthed in Lerwick.

The ship’s focus has now switched to hunting down three diesel and one nuclear submarine lurking somewhere in a 14,000-square-mile patch of the Norwegian Sea (that’s about six times the size of Devon).

Three thousand sailors and aircrew from eight Allied nations – Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Turkey, the UK , and the USA –  are taking part in Dynamic Mongoose, committing nine surface ships, four submarines and four maritime patrol aircraft.

This was the first time a major surface vessel had visited the port for around 30 years

Lieutenant Commander Brendan Keane, Weapon Engineer Officer HMS Somerset