November 20m 2018 – After nearly ten months away, UK flagship HMS Albion is homeward bound for Plymouth having completed her final port of call.
The assault ship spent three days in Gibraltar, last stop before home and the end of a mammoth deployment which has taken her to Tokyo and back.
After a number of stops in the Asia-Pacific region and Middle East – Indonesia, South Korea, a lengthy period in Japan, Vietnam, Brunei and Oman amongst others – Albion called in on The Rock and a traditional last run ashore before home: it’s famous for spectacular views, rock apes and for being a little part of Britain in the Mediterranean sunshine… except at this time of year when it rains. A lot.
That did not deter the athletic members of the ship’s company who were up early for a Royal Navy tradition: the Rock run, a dawn race to the top of the mountain which dominates the British territory – a 1,300ft climb over two and two-thirds miles.
There was added incentive on this visit with Portsmouth’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond also in Gibraltar at the same time.
A contest of Devonport vs Pompey ensued with the honors going comprehensively to the West Country.
The first five runners over the line hailed from Albion: Sub Lieutenant Doug Wilkie took ‘gold’ in 22 mins 30 secs, followed swiftly by Captain Ben Durston RM and Lieutenant Commander Mark Hayes in third.
“It’s an extremely tough climb, and the weather made it doubly so, but what a great opportunity to take part in a Royal Navy tradition.
“I loved every minute of it,” said Doug.
The ship’s impressive rugby union team continued their excellent run of form – including beating Singapore’s national champions for an historic military trophy – by demolishing Gibraltar Combined Services Rugby Team 85-10.
“Marine Rhys Garbutt delivered an outstanding performance leading the Lions pack to victory,” said Petty Officer Physical Trainer Jamie Buttle.
“The training and leadership from Warrant Officer Franklin, team coach, and Corporal Hall, team captain, shows the strength and depth that the team has developed over the ten months away.”
Finally, the British Forces Federation arranged a ‘thank you’ to the sailors and Royal Marines of HMS Albion in the form of a music/comedy concert in the St Michael’s Cave, deep within the Rock of Gibraltar.
A wonderful evening of music and laughter was enjoyed by all – at a venue that had to be seen to be believed.
HMS Albion left Gibraltar with some family members embarked for the passage home to Devonport to give them a brief insight into life aboard.
“During the past ten months, HMS Albion has upheld the United Kingdom’s commitment to peace, security, and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific region and Middle East.
“I am immensely proud of my sailors and Royal Marines who have delivered success on operations with trademark professionalism,” said the flagship’s Captain Tim Neild.
“We are all looking forward to a fantastic Plymouth welcome as we return the Nation’s Flagship to Devonport to reunite with our families and friends who have supported us so much throughout a busy year on operations.”