Destroyer Defender leads ‘ships of the year’ in Navy awards

The trophy cabinet of HMS Defender will soon be bulging after the destroyer picked up six titles in the new Surface Flotilla awards.

One in three trophies up for grabs went to the Portsmouth-based warship for her efforts over the past 12 months

The Surface Flotilla Excellence Awards, presented by Commodore Tim Neild, replace the long-standing Fleet Efficiency Awards and recognise the surface ships and units which have stood out in 18 distinct fields – all of them making a difference to the defence and security of the real.

Beyond bragging rights among peers and a trophy (in most cases), the awards allow some of the winning ships to hoist a special blue and white pennant, fouled with the crown and anchor and two hippocampi (the mythical seahorses which are the symbol of the Surface Fleet).

The six awards snapped up by Defender are: best destroyer, Naval Capability, Above Water Warfare, Engineering, Signal Intelligence, and Seamanship (covering board and search operations, refuelling at sea and general sea boat duties).

Aside from a demanding tour of duty in the Gulf – when at times she was providing air defence for more than two dozen coalition warships, as well as providing protection for ships passing through the Hormuz/Bab-al-Mandeb choke points more than 30 times. – Defender has worked extensively in home waters since her return, using her guns to develop tactics which will help the Fleet fend off any fast attack craft.

Her engineers worked in difficult conditions to ensure she was always available, coming up with ingenious solutions to problems under pressure.

In the words of her citation: “2020 has been a year in which HMS Defender has consistently maintained the utmost level of professional effectiveness, delivering all tasking required of her to the highest standard. Defender continues to set the standard as the most operationally experienced and effective air defence vessel in the Fleet.”

Despite the challenges of Covid, the Royal Navy has unequivocally maintained all our operational outputs on which our nation depends – and more

Commodore Tim Neild

The nation’s flagship HMS Albion edged out carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth as the most effective capital ship thanks to the ‘can-do’ attitude of her sailors and Royal Marines who’ve delivered everything asked of them in 2020 – including the experimental autumn amphibious deployment to the Med – without “missing a beat”.

Best Frigate HMS Sutherland earned a reputation as one of the RN’s hardest-working ships, almost constantly in demand for anti-submarine warfare duties, keeping a close watch on Russian warship movements at home and in the High North, and helping to train future submarine commanders as their prey/hunter.

New River-class ship HMS Medway takes the Offshore Patrol Vessel Trophy having made her mark in her first 12 months deployed to the Caribbean, always on stand-by to provide help in the event of a natural disaster, as well as seizing £160m illegal drugs in combined operations with the US Coast Guard.

Crew 5 of 2nd Mine Countermeasures Squadron threw themselves immediately into their mission aboard HMS Brocklesby in the Gulf during a period of heightened tensions and then battled through difficulties caused by the global pandemic to take the MCM Trophy.

HMS Enterprise’s 15-month mission to the Asia-Pacific region which mixed data gathering with diplomacy and showcased the flexibility and utility of the Echo class means she takes the Hydrography and Meteorology Trophy. She has also picked up the Fleet Intelligence Trophy.

P2000 HMS Puncher stood out among the small-ship community to take the Inshore Patrol Vessel Trophy, working with Border Force to help prepare for the possible impact of Brexit, protecting HMS Queen Elizabeth when she anchored in the Solent, and has helped the RN develop tactics for dealing with fast attack craft.

HMS Kent was at the forefront of the RN’s anti-submarine operations in 2020 from the expanses of the Atlantic to the Barents Sea, helped write the manual for defending the Queen Elizabeth carrier group from underwater threats and tested her mettle against NATO’s finest to take the Underwater Warfare Trophy.

 From the cool wasteland of Iceland to the warm waters of the Gulf and Mediterranean, the newly-formed Expeditionary Diving Unit 3 (previously Fleet Diving Unit 3) has provided the RN and its ships key protection against underwater improvised explosive devices whilst embracing the latest tech to earn the Fleet Diving Unit Trophy.

HMS Dragon proved experts in Communications and HMS Montrose excelled in Electronic Warfare.

And finally HMS Diamond showed she knows the laws of seafaring to take the ‘Rules of the Road Pennant’.