February 20, 2019 – Frigate HMS Montrose has begun the latest leg of a 20,000-mile voyage to the Gulf after ten days in Singapore.
The Plymouth-based warship used the ten-day break in the Commonwealth nation to allow maintenance to be carried out after a 16,000-mile journey from home via the Caribbean and Pacific.
And it allowed the ship’s company an extended break after four months mostly at sea – allowing many sailors to fly loved ones out to join them in the ‘city of the lion’.
The ship berthed at Sembawang Naval Wharves on the north side of the island where an eight-strong team of Royal Navy personnel are permanently based.
They support visiting ships from the Five Power Defence Agreement – UK, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia, plus Singapore – and the US Navy.
There are more than 150 movements each year at the wharves – opened on the eve of World War 2 and used by legendary ships such as HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse – making it busier than Portsmouth Naval Base.
With three major British warships using the wharves last year, the small facility provided more fuel than all the home naval bases.
They were part of the much larger HMS Terror which closed nearly half a century ago. Its recreational centre, the Terror Club, still survives and still provides visiting service personnel and their families cheap food, a swimming pool and a place to relax – away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Singapore.
Other crew hit the heart of ‘Singers’: the world-famous Raffles Hotel, the Las Vegas-esque Marina Bay leisure complex and the zoo with families.
And Montrose’s operations officer, Lt Cdr Matt Bray, headed into the city to re-trace his grandfather’s footsteps; the latter was stationed out here in 1958 with 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment.
Lt Cdr Bray visited Selarang – still a barracks, but today occupied by Singapore Infantry.
“It was great to visit the Barracks where my grandad served and retrace his steps 60 years later,” he said.
“He was over the moon to hear about it, in particular how much it has grown and developed compared to his memory of the camp and Singapore itself.”
Commanding Officer Commander Conor O’Neill hosted a lunch for the Deputy High Commissioner Singapore, Alexandra McKenzie, plus officers serving at Sembawang with the New Zealand Defence Force, Royal Australian Navy and US Navy’s Seventh Fleet to discuss the current military-political situation in the Asia-Pacific region.
To maintain the strong links between Singapore and the UK, youth groups were invited aboard for tours: National Cadet Corps, Scouts, Guides and the Nexus International School.
These provided an insight to the young members of these organisations into the role of the Royal Navy and also the unique and varied capabilities of HMS Montrose.
Reflecting on the visit on leaving, Commander O’Neill said, “Half way through our global deployment, our stop in Singapore gave us the opportunity to refresh and enjoy the wonderful city state of Singapore with our friends and families – and prepare the ship materially for our next period of operations in the region.”
Once in Bahrain, Montrose will conduct patrols for up to three years, with her crew trading places every six months with the ship’s company of her sister, HMS Monmouth, also based in Plymouth.