HMS Montrose visits Darwin on second Asia Pacific port visit

HMS Montrose in Darwin. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

After becoming the first Royal Navy ship to visit Auckland, New Zealand, in 20 years, Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose visited Darwin, Australia.

Continuing a trend, the frigate became the first Royal Navy warship in a decade to visit Australia’s northernmost and remotest city.

The Plymouth-based warship is on a three-year mission, the bulk of which will be spent patrolling the Gulf.

To get there, she is sailing ‘the wrong way’ around the world – West to East, via the Pacific – allowing the ship’s company a series of once-in-a-lifetime visits such as Easter and Pitcairn Islands, as well as rare visits to New Zealand and now northern Australia.

Nearly 5,000 miles of ocean separated the ship from her last port of call – Auckland – with Darwin, a passage broken up with exercises first with the New Zealand military, then the French and finally the Royal Australian Navy.

Upon sailing from Auckland, the frigate linked up with a New Zealand P3 maritime patrol aircraft to practice submarine-hunting skills ahead of an impending exercise she’ll take part in with the Japanese Navy on the next leg of her deployment.

Off New Caledonia a French Navy Guardian patrol aircraft was used to train Montrose’s operations room team and upper deck gunners in the art of air defense.

Aside from military exercises there was old school sports day featuring egg-and-spoon, sack and three-legged races, plus bucketball with the team from the 39-man-mess triumphing.

Once through the Torres Strait – separating Australia and Papua New Guinea – the frigate left the Pacific behind, passing coral reefs and small tropical Islands on her way to Darwin, where patrol boat HMAS Pirie was on hand to guide her into harbor.

His Commanding Officer Commander Conor O’Neill called on the Senior Naval Officer Northern Australia, Cdr Darren Rushworth RAN, then invited Australian sailors and local dignitaries to join him on breakfast.

“It was a pleasure to host both the Royal Australian Navy and Northern Territory government onboard, giving us the opportunity to thank them for their support and hospitality, look back on the long mutual history of our navies and consider how exciting the future will be, with the Royal Australian Navy choosing to procure the Type 26 Frigate as the future workhorse of their fleet as the Hunter class,” he said.

Having refueled and topped-up on supplies, Montrose has now left Australia bound for Singapore.

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