September 14, 2018 – The crew of HMS Diamond are heading back to home port after spending two months being run ragged from the grey wastes of the Atlantic to the confines of the Baltic.
The destroyer has been activated throughout the traditionally busy summer season, barely stopping to take a breather as she monitored Russian naval activity twice, visited four ports, helped train warfare officers and RAF air crew, hosted two ambassadors, represented the Fleet in front of a million people at Bournemouth Air Festival, joined NATO ships in the Baltic and impressed Poles on a rare visit to their country.
The Portsmouth-based warship’s hectic summer began in Ringaskiddy, near Cork where visitors included the Irish Naval College, Britain’s Ambassador to Ireland Robin Barnett and Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney.
Dashing back to the UK to pick up Principle Warfare Officer trainees for a fortnight of non-stop action testing the students’ command of air defense, gunnery, flying, anti-submarine and surface warfare exercises, reaching its climax in the North Sea with RAF Typhoon fighters switching between attacking Diamond or being controlled by her.
A lot of the destroyer’s time has been spent as one of the Royal Navy’s high readiness escort units. She was activated to monitor Russian destroyer Severomorsk and cruiser Marshal Ustinov past the UK, then became the first ship in her class to take on fuel from one of the new Tide-class tankers, RFA Tidespring.
The breakwater and harbour were lined with Granite City residents holding welcome messages – including local Sea Cadets who had prepared a visual signal for the ship to decode and respond to.
The ship hosted a capability demonstration for local charity workers, teachers, councilors and RNLI volunteers and some crew visited one of the destroyer’s favored charities: Friends of ANCHOR (Aberdeen and North Centre for Haematology, Oncology and Radiotherapy), where the sailors “lifted the patients spirits and brought lots of smiles and laughter!”
Loved ones were also given an insight into life aboard a cutting-edge warship with a short ‘parents and children at sea’ experience – but long enough for the guests to see Diamond sail from Devonport, witness a small arms shoot, enjoy a guided tour of the machinery spaces and watch a fire-fighting demo.
Next up: Bournemouth Air Festival, with Diamond acting as guard ship off shore – giving her sailors a front-row view of Royal Marines storming the beach in Vikings, simulated dogfights, parachuting, vintage aircraft such as Spitfires, plus perennial crowd pleasers the Red Arrows. The ship somehow managed to squeeze in an affiliates day with many of the organizations ‘twinned’ with Diamond coming on board.
The curtain came down on Diamond’s summer with a 2,600-mile round trip to Gdynia in Poland, passing under the Øresund Bridge – linking Denmark and Sweden – training with HDMS Esben Snare, the Danish command vessel currently in charge of NATO’s Baltic ‘big ship’ task group.
In Gdynia there was no let up with VIP visits, tours by the Polish public and press conferences with local and national media; one reporter described Diamond as “the jewel in the crown of Britain’s Navy”.
The highlight was a reception and demonstration for the UK Ambassador to Poland, Jonathan Knott, accompanied by countless Polish politicians, industry representatives, Polish military and even soldiers from 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards, 150 of whom are based in Poland as part of a US battle group contributing to the security of the Baltic region.
“I’m really proud of my ship’s company and all that they have achieved – over the past month or so they have shown their flexibility, adaptability and complete professionalism,” said Commander Ben Keith, Diamond’s Commanding Officer.
“We have delivered on operations, we have flown the flag for the Royal Navy around the UK – and most recently the Baltic – and demonstrated our continued commitment to NATO and European Defence.”
After a busy three months away, Diamond is heading back to port readying herself for the next big adventure.