A Scots Royal Naval officer has taken command of his first ship – the Plymouth-based frigate HMS Sutherland which has strong Scots roots.
Commander Stephen Anderson assumed command 25 April at a supersession ceremony in HM Naval Base Devonport when he took over from second-in-command Lieutenant Commander Pete Brotton and addressed his new crew.
The ship’s previous captain was Commander Al Wilson. The ship – known as the ‘Fighting Clan’ has been active on the frontline of naval operations for the UK off Libya in combat and in the Middle East on counter-piracy and counter smuggling patrol in the last three years.
Commander Stephen Anderson said:
“I am extremely proud to be joining HMS Sutherland in command, and particularly looking forward to leading her out of refit to be ready for any tasking that may be required of her.
“The ship has many strong and valued affiliations, each of which I am very much looking forward to meeting and continuing to build these relationships.
“I would like to thank Commander Al Wilson for all his hard work and leadership in making her the successful frigate that she has become to be well known for.”
Cdr Anderson was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland in 1972 and educated at Marr College, Troon. After spending 10 years in Industry as a project manager for an international construction company, he joined the Royal Navy in 1998.
Following training at Britannia Royal Naval College, where he was awarded the Queen’s Binoculars, he began basic flying training at 750 Naval Air Squadron in Culdrose, Cornwall, before moving to specialist Lynx helicopter training at 702 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton.
On gaining his ‘wings’ he joined 815 Naval Air Squadron. As a Lynx helicopter observer, he served in the Indian Ocean with HMS Southampton, and NATO operations in the Mediterranean with HMS Edinburgh, and served in the Caribbean on anti-drugs patrol in HMS Sutherland.
He returned to HMS Edinburgh for Iraq operations in 2003, then HMS Manchester for anti-drugs patrol in the Caribbean, returning as flight commander for a NATO deployment in the Mediterranean.
He became a principal warfare and operations officer of HMS Southampton for an operational tour of the South Atlantic.
He joined the staff of Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces in March 2008, and following the formation of European counter piracy operations he was the chief of staff to Operation Iraqi Freedom in southern Iraq, and worked with the US Navy as operations officer to the combined task force off the Somali coast. He supported counter-terrorism activity in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
Cdr Anderson joined the newest Royal Naval warships HMS Defender and HMS Dauntless in 2012, sailing with HMS Dauntless on her maiden seven-month deployment in the North and South Atlantic. Selected for promotion to commander, in 2013, he joined the staff of Plymouth-based Flag officer Sea Training before joining HMS Sutherland.
Last year HMS Sutherland entered a dock to carry out work to her hull for important upgrades. She is in Plymouth Naval Base, enjoying a new paint job and getting a new radar, computer system and sonar dome.
Before coming in for maintenance, ‘The Fighting Clan’ conducted maritime security around the UK as well as participating in various exercises with coalition forces such as Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland. She also visited her beloved affiliated county – The County of Sutherland.
Given her Scottish roots it’s perhaps only right that she was launched with the smashing of a bottle of whisky, not champagne, against the hull on the slipway at the Yarrow yard (now BAE) on the Clyde back in 1996.
HMS Sutherland was commissioned into the Navy one year later in Devonport.
HMS Sutherland’s name is spelled out in giant boulders overlooking Loch Eriboll. A resurrected tradition from the days when the great natural anchorage was used regularly by the Fleet and ship’s companies listed their vessels – such as Valiant and Hood – on the hillside.
The ship’s affiliations include South West and Scots including: Lady Walmsley as the ship’s sponsor, Honourable Company Of Master Mariners, Red Lions Food, Macellan Whiskey, Clifton College CCF, Sherborne School CCF, TS Grenville (Paisley Sea Cadets ), TS Duchess (Biggleswade Sea Cadets).
Press Release, April 29, 2014; Image: Royal Navy