From navigation to dedication as Westminster honours Royal Oak dead in Scapa Flow

The calm, seemingly endless expanse of Scapa Flow provided peace and tranquillity for the crew of HMS Westminster after thrashing the frigate around in Norway.

From navigation to dedication as Westminster honours Royal Oak dead in Scapa FlowThe Portsmouth-based warship sailed into the huge natural harbour in Orkney for a break from tricky navigational training and to pay her respects to the 833 men lost when battleship Royal Oak was sunk at anchor nearly 80 years ago.

Westminster is hosting the RN's Specialist Navigator Course for the very best of male and female officers who plot the routes of British warships around the globe.

The most advanced navigation course goes further, expecting students not merely to choose safe routes for their own ships, but choreograph the movements of an entire task group.

Instead of using a task force, students are taught on a frigate, manoeuvring at high speed in challenging waters, close to land to simulate the pressures the navigators will experience when using these skills for many ships.

Westminster with her two Rolls-Royce Spey gas turbines powering the ship along at speeds over 28 knots is the ideal vessel for such training.

The navigation students took the ship to the lochs of the west coast of Scotland then up to the strikingly-beautiful Arctic fjords of northern Norway around Tromsø before returning across the Norwegian Sea to motor around the stark beauty of the Shetlands then, further south, to Orkney.

it has been an absolute privilege to return to Scapa Flow in command of Westminster to hold a service to remember the 833 sailors who lost their lives far from home in the service of their country

Commander Simon Kelly, Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster

"In an attempt to find new and challenging routes, the course has taken HMS Westminster to some of the hidden gems that warships don't routinely get to visit," said the frigate's weapon engineer officer Lieutenant Commander Matthew Cox.

"It has been a real privilege to see some of the UK's most beautiful coastline and wildlife."

Scapa Flow served as the principal anchorage of the Royal Navy in both world wars, its 125 square miles of water offering protection to the Fleet in its life-and-death struggle with the German Fleet.

The defences were formidable, but not impenetrable. In October 1939, German submarine U-47 slipped into the harbour and torpedoed Jutland-veteran Royal Oak.

The battleship sank in a matter of minutes, taking 833 of her crew - many of them boy seamen - down with her.

The wreck, an official war grave, is marked by a buoy; Westminster spent several hours at anchor nearby, long enough for the ship's company to pay their respects to those killed in 1939.

"Having had the great honour of previously accompanying the Naval Diving Unit responsible for the laying of a White Ensign every year on the wreck of HMS Royal Oak, it has been an absolute privilege to return to Scapa Flow in command of Westminster to hold a service to remember the 833 sailors who lost their lives far from home in the service of their country," said Westminster's CO Cdr Simon Kelly.

Although conducting training, HMS Westminster remains the Fleet Ready Escort - the warship held at high readiness to respond to any incident in UK waters.

At the beginning of the year, Westminster was called upon to escort a Russian task group through the English Channel, but missions can range from maritime security, to search and rescue or even counter terrorism.