Sailors from HMS Montrose left their mark in Bermuda – the last of 13 ports of call for their ship before she returns to Devonport in Friday after more than six months away. Upholding a fine naval tradition, they restored the ship’s badge painted on the dockyard wall – alongside more than 200 crests.
On a very old wall, in a very old dockyard, in a very old British territory, a unique piece of Royal Navy history lies baking in the sun.
Nearly 16 years after the ship’s last visit, Bermudians have a lasting reminder of HMS Montrose after today’s sailors spruced up the badge painted by their forebears in the mid-90s – thus upholding a long-standing naval tradition.
In days of yore, ships visiting yards around the world left their mark by painting their badges on the walls (in the same way that commanding officers presented mounted badges to local dignitaries).
That tradition has all but died out – but the historic dockyard at Bermuda is one place where it persists.
The yard dates back to the early 19th Century, but when it closed as a Royal Navy base (HMS Malabar) at the beginning of the 50s the tradition continued – thanks not least to many visiting warships from other nations.
Today there are a good 200 badges, crests and mementoes left not just by warships – , but also merchantmen.
The Devonport-based frigate visited twice in quick succession in the mid-90s, but has not been back; so the original painting was restored to its original glory – and, of course, today’s crew added a personal touch to mark their presence.
The emblems can be found on Ireland Island, rather tucked away from the rest of the beautifully-restored old Royal Naval Dockyard – and generally missed by the thousands of tourists who visit Bermuda every year.
“Generations of sailors have made their mark in a unique way that will ensure their visit is not forgotten,” said weapons engineer officer Lt Cdr Charlie Deal.
“It’s a great tradition to follow – Montrose was glad to leave her mark in Bermuda at the end of what has been a long but memorable deployment.”
Indeed, Bermuda was the last British soil Montrose’s sailors set foot on… before setting foot on British soil, the earth of the mother country, that is.
The ship is due home in Plymouth on Friday having completed her six-and-a-half-month patrol of the North and South Atlantic.
In the intervening period she’s ticked off plenty of ‘things to do’ on a sailor’s ‘bucket list’: visiting the edge of Antarctica, rounding Cape Horn, sailing the Panama Canal, visiting all of Britain’s Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic (Ascension Island, St Helena, the Falklands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and Tristan da Cunha.)
“Having navigated more than 35,000 nautical miles, patrolled in three oceans, visited five continents and six British Overseas Territories, there’s a real sense of achievement among my ship’s company,” said Cdr Jonathan Lett, Montrose’s Commanding Officer.
“From the frozen wastes of the South Sandwich Islands to the tropical paradise of Bermuda, we’ve faced some significant challenges – but the team can be justifiably proud of a job well done.”
After a spot of well-earned leave for the ship’s company, they’ll return to put their ship through an intensive maintenance package before taking her back to sea for operational duties later this year.
The ship is due in Plymouth Sound at 10.15am on Friday.
Naval Today Staff , May 09, 2012; Image: Royal Navy