Falklands patrol ship Forth debuts in islands’ capital

SEVEN months after she arrived, Falkland islanders finally got a chance to see ‘their’ ship as HMS Forth paid her maiden visit to the capital Stanley.

Despite having patrolled the South Atlantic Islands since January, inhabitants of the most populous settlement had not had the chance to formally welcome the Royal Navy’s new permanent presence in the archipelago.

The inaugural welcome to the capital was delayed by the Covid pandemic, but with the relaxing of restrictions and some additional planning considerations, the visit belatedly took place in the depths of the South Atlantic winter.

While Stanley may be small by worldwide standards with a population of a little over 2,000, it is the bustling epicentre of the Falkland community.

After a quick opportunity for the 40 crew to visit Stanley’s gift shops and the local restaurants, the five-day visit began in earnest with Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Samuel Fields calling on Governor Nigel Phillips at Government House, to formally accept the ship’s invitation to the port.

Generating plenty of interest via local media outlets ahead of the visit, it was no surprise to see a queue of people braving the chill of a winter morning to be among the first of the guests welcomed up the gangway.

To reduce the number of people aboard at any one time, members of the public were shown around in small groups, escorted by the ship’s company.

It was great to be able to show off HMS Forth to the people of Stanley and begin building what we hope will be a close and long-lasting relationship.

Marine Engineer Officer Lieutenant Matthew Head

In the evening the wardroom hosted Brigadier Nick Sawyer, Commander of British Forces in the South Atlantic Islands, for an evening reception with 21 guests who were treated to bespoke tours provided by Forth’s sailors.

As a part of the formal welcome, the ship’s company were invited to Sunday Service at Christ Church Cathedral, an occasion which provided time for reflection as thoughts and prayers turned to family and friends 8,000 miles away in the UK, before raising voices to the rafters with a rousing rendition of the Naval Hymn.

Afterwards, the sailors mingled with the local populace and thanked them for the hospitality that had been shown to the ship over the weekend.

The final full day alongside gave pupils from Stanley’s primary and secondary schools their chance to come onboard and explore. The bridge – and the commanding officer’s chair and the ship’s wheel – proved especially popular.

Forth’s final act was a formal invite for the majority of the ship’s company to visit Government House whose previous guests in its 175-year-history include Sir Ernest Shackleton ahead of his ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineer) Connor Asquith was enjoying his first overseas run ashore with the RN.

“It was great,” he said. “We were all made to feel so welcome.  I will always remember this weekend with fondness.”

His boss, Weapon Engineer Officer Lieutenant Trev Orton, added: “Stanley provided an excellent respite from the regular patrol cycle usually experienced by the ship’s company, as well as allowing for the strengthening of ties with the town.”