UK’s amphibious forces change hands

For the second time in month Commodore James Parkin handed over control of a front-line command – and again without a handshake.

After a virtual handover of control of the International Maritime Security Construct –safeguarding merchant shipping entering and leaving the Gulf – in early May, two years in charge of the UK’s amphibious task forces came to a (socially-distanced) end in Plymouth.

As the Commander Littoral Strike Group – known until last year as the Amphibious Task Group – it’s the duty of the commodore and his staff to ensure a sizeable force is available at short notice to deploy anywhere in the world to respond to global events, putting ashore Royal Marines and all the equipment they need for their mission (fighting/disaster relief/military aid/civilian evacuation) by landing craft or helicopter.

During his two-year tenure Cdre Parkin led four operational deployments overseas and  numerous exercises involving “too many nations to list” as well as the name change of an organisation which traces its history back to the mid-60s to better reflect present-day RN operations and the transformation of amphibious warfare.

The high point of the task group’s efforts was its foray into the Baltic last summer led by UK flagship HMS Albion. At the peak of Operation Baltic Protector, the staff directed the actions of 44 ships – 16 of them British – and 3,850 personnel from the nine partner nations.

It is a huge honour to take command of the Littoral Strike Group – especially to do so the day after the anniversary of the San Carlos amphibious landings in 1982.

Commodore Pedre

The result was the largest UK-led Task Group since 1991 – and the largest British deployment into the Baltic since 1919 when states were fighting for their independence in the aftermath of the Russian revolution and end of World War 1.

Handing over the littoral baton to his successor Commodore Rob Pedre at Stonehouse Barracks in Plymouth – a simple lowering and raising of their respective broad pennants marked the transfer of command – Commodore Parkin said the scope of the tasks accomplished by his staff had far exceeded expectations.

“When I assumed command, we knew about all the exercises in which we would be participating, but only one of the four operational deployments in which my team and I have taken part had been thought about.

“My task group has operated in the Pacific, Indian, Atlantic, Mediterranean and Arctic Oceans, and in the Arabian, Red, South China, Baltic, Norwegian, North and Caribbean seas.

“I pay tribute to my team from every one of the British Armed Forces, and our sister civilian services, and to those many nations who entrusted me with their men, women, ships, and aircraft, all of whom have worked so extremely hard to make our shared endeavour so successful.”

Elements of the task group and staff are currently deployed with RFA Argus on hurricane relief duties in the Caribbean.

It is a huge honour to take command of the Littoral Strike Group – especially to do so the day after the anniversary of the San Carlos amphibious landings in 1982,” said Commodore Pedre, who previously was the final Commanding Officer of helicopter carrier HMS Ocean.

“I know that the men and women under my command are of the highest quality, and I look forward to working with them as we advance our littoral strike capability.