4,500 sailors and Royal Marines on duty this Christmas

Thousands of sailors and Royal Marines stand ready to respond to events at home and abroad this festive season.

While many enjoy a well-earned break over Christmas and New Year, nearly 2,000 men and women of the Naval Service are on active duty, while over 2,500 personnel are on standby at home in the UK.

  • Middle East: more than 1,000 personnel: The drugsbusters of HMS Dragon; minehunters Brocklesby, Shoreham, Ledbury and Blyth, plus their support ship RFA Cardigan Bay; their operations are directed by the team at the UK Maritime Component Commander’s HQ in Bahrain.
  • North Atlantic: RFA Mounts Bay on counter-narcotics patrol in the Caribbean.
  • South Atlantic: providing support and reassurance to British citizens in the Falklands is HMS Clyde, while HMS Protector is surveying Antarctic waters.
  • Mediterranean: Gibraltar Squadron (Sabre and Scimitar) protecting the Rock and its waters; HMS Echo is on NATO duties in the Black Sea.
  • Asia-Pacific: HMS Argyll is in the Far East on the second half of her Pacific patrol; her sister HMS Montrose is crossing the Pacific, ultimately bound for Bahrain.
  • In the UK: more than 1,000 personnel are on duty or at short notice to react: the Fleet Ready Escort, supported by a duty RFA tanker and Fleet Air Arm Merlin and Wildcat flights; as well as bomb disposal teams in Plymouth, Portsmouth and Faslane; in addition, RN medics are working shifts in NHS hospitals around the UK and staff at the Northwood Maritime Operations Centre co-ordinate the actions of all active units.
  • Submarine Service: a Vanguard-class boats performing a nuclear deterrence patrol, the 50th Christmas the Silent Service has carried out the duty.

From the sands of the Gulf to the edge of the frozen continent, the sandy beaches of the Caribbean to the depths of the Atlantic, the shores of the Black Sea, the shadow of Gibraltar’s famous Rock, the windswept Falklands and equally-unforgiving Western Approaches, 23 warships, submarines, auxiliaries, Fleet Air Arm squadrons and Royal Marines units are deployed, on call, or on duty as 2018 draws to a close.

Ships away over Christmas stocked up with many of the things they needed to celebrate before leaving the UK – crackers, cards, presents, decorations, frozen turkeys – while British Forces Post Office has delivered parcels and post to the four corners of the globe to bring some welcome cheer on the big day.

The crew of HMS Clyde – the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the Falkland Islands – will take a morning dip at Bertha’s Beach; despite it being summer in the South Atlantic the water is colder than it is in Portsmouth. Afterwards they’ll celebrate with a Christmas barbecue.

Christmas on a deployed ship is a time when thoughts naturally turn to family and those we love at home.

Captain Rob Anders RFA

In the Gulf, RFA Cardigan Bay, which supports the day-to-day operations of four Royal Navy minehunters, will be at sea with her 115 sailors, soldiers and Royal Marines.

"Christmas on a deployed ship is a time when thoughts naturally turn to family and those we love at home,” said Captain Rob Anders RFA, Cardigan Bay’s Commanding Officer.

"For us it is another day on operations that the majority of the ship’s company will treat much the same as any other."

Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Dragon enters the festive season fresh from four major drugs busts in the Indian Ocean inside a month.

"To be away from family and friends is always a wrench whatever the time of the year, but especially so at Christmas,” said her Commanding Officer Commander Michael Carter Quinn.

“We have a family of our own aboard HMS Dragon which goes some way to making up for the absence of loved ones. We’ll celebrate in the Royal Navy’s unique way, make the most of the day, then get back out there, hunting down the drugs traffickers. They don’t stop and neither do we.”

December 25 is typically a relaxed affair – and although watch routines are maintained as normal – with the age-old tradition of officers serving ratings their dinner maintained (and in some cases the most junior or youngest member of the ship’s company is permitted to be captain for the day).

"The catering department though will be working harder to maintain morale and ensure that Christmas dinner, which the whole ship’s company take together in the dining hall, will be as close to a family occasion as we can make it. The one difference is that the lunch will be a combined affair and the Officers will be doing the washing up!!” Captain Anders added.

Thanking sailors and Royal Marines for their efforts – and their families for unyielding support – First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones said 2018 had been “an incredible year of conspicuous success. The Service has made its presence felt in every part of the globe in a way which we have not done for many years.".