HMS Argyll knuckles down to Gulf mission

A YEAR after her last Gulf patrol, HMS Argyll is back on the beat tackling illegal activity in the Middle East.

After a dash from her home in Plymouth via Gibraltar and Crete, the frigate has begun a six-month stint east of Suez tackling drug running and smuggling of other illicit goods and keeping the sea lanes open for merchant vessels.

Argyll – winner of the ‘Hero Overseas’ award in this year’s Sun Military Awards for saving the crew of cargo ship MV Grande America when fire broke out – will support Combined Maritime Forces, an international effort to clamp down on criminal activity across an area seven times the size of the North Sea; and the new International Maritime Security Construct which reassures merchant shipping in the wider Gulf region.

Since returning from her previous Middle East mission, the frigate and her 200 sailors and Royal Marines have been heavily engaged in home and European waters. From helping the people of Antwerp celebrate the 75th anniversary of their liberation, to demonstrating future naval technology as the ‘mother ship’ for robot boats at the DSEI trade show in London.

Argyll spent the winter undergoing operational sea training off Plymouth to prepare all aboard for the rigours of a front-line deployment, interspersed with engine changes and a complete rebuild of her galley.

Families waved the ship off from Devil’s Point in Plymouth on March 10, since when the ship has linked up with destroyer HMS Defender – returning from the Middle East – in Gibraltar, tested her sensors on the NATO ranges in Crete, then headed through the Suez Canal and into her operational theatre.

 

Less than a year after returning from a nine-month deployment, HMS Argyll is once more in the vanguard of a globally-deployed Royal Navy as we head to the Middle East for a follow-up seven-month deployment.

Commanding Officer Commander Andrew Ainsley

“I’ve been in the Navy a few years and it’s good to finally deploy after a comprehensive - and busy - build up. It’s an exciting and interesting time to be deployed and I’m glad we are making a positive contribution in the world,” said Engineering Technician James ‘Beans’ Pilbeam, who maintains the frigate’s weapons and sensor systems.

“We’re all thinking about everyone at home and I miss all my family lots, but I know they are proud of me for what we’re doing.”

As part of her security mission, she’ll join sister ship HMS Montrose, which is operating out of Bahrain as the pilot for the Royal Navy’s Forward Presence initiative to station British warships around the globe on long-term patrols.

The entire ship’s company joined in the ‘Clap for Carers’ thank-you to NHS staff dealing with the coronavirus pandemic back home, gathering on the forecastle to applaud while their Wildcat helicopter launched a spectacular display of flares overhead.

Argyll’s mixed Royal Marines-Royal Navy boarding team have been conducting training exercises from scrambling up rope ladders and ‘rapid roping’ (abseiling) from the Wildcat to scouring the scores of compartments aboard the frigate; most British warships dispatched to the Indian Ocean over the past couple of years have scored substantial drugs busts after intercepting suspect dhows.

“Less than a year after returning from a nine-month deployment, HMS Argyll is once more in the vanguard of a globally-deployed Royal Navy as we head to the Middle East for a follow-up seven-month deployment,” said the ship’s Commanding Officer Commander Andrew Ainsley.

“In the interim we have protected UK home waters, represented the Royal Navy at home and abroad, and conducted essential training and maintenance.
“More than 30 years after her launch, HMS Argyll and her people continue to deliver for global Britain in a rapidly-evolving world.”

This is Argyll’s fifth deployment to the Middle East after patrols in 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2018-19.