June 16, 2021 – Thirty years – and 32 times around the globe – were celebrated as Britain’s longest-serving frigate marked a milestone birthday at sea.
The Plymouth-based warship, which has just completed involvement in the largest anti-missile/air exercise at sea in the Western Hemisphere, enjoyed an afternoon of flight-deck celebrations in the Atlantic.
The frigate’s 18th Commanding Officer Commander Charlie Wheen gathered the bulk of his 200-strong ship’s company for a spot of cake and athletics.
And although his frigate is enjoying her autumn years, he says she remains at the forefront of naval technology and capability.
When HMS Argyll was commissioned into the Fleet in the spring of 1991:
- Cher was No.1 with The Shoop Shoop Song;
- Helen Mirren was winning plaudits for her performance in seminal detective series Prime Suspect;
- John Major was Prime Minister;
- The Berlin Wall had fallen but the Soviet Union still had seven months to live;
- Arsenal and Rangers were respective football champions in England and Scotland;
- And 105 members of Argyll’s current ship’s company – more than half the crew – hadn’t been born.
Over a long and successful career at sea, Argyll has, to date, steamed more 685,000 nautical miles – enough to go around the world 32 times, under the command of 18 commanding officers (including one future First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas).
She has deployed operationally to the Asia-Pacific, the USA, Caribbean, Gulf (five times), West Africa and Sierra Leone. On the way back from a nine-month deployment in 2019 she rescued 27 sailors from the burning MV Grande America, at night in the Bay of Biscay leading to Operational Honors for two of her team, and the award of a Sun Military award for ‘Hero Unit Overseas’.
Despite being designed and laid down in the 1980s and 30 years old outwardly, the tech inside the frigate remains cutting-edge – as demonstrated during NATO’s Formidable Shield exercise with Argyll tracking supersonic ballistic targets and developing future tactics for the Sea Ceptor missile system which protects not just her sisters, but also the new generation of Type 26 frigates.
She was also the first Royal Navy warship to control an autonomous RHIB through a live Command System.
Her chefs provided an impressive cake, cut by Cdr Wheen along with the youngest member of the crew ET(ME) Hayden Jenkins.
The calories were then burned off with an ‘Olympiad’ with various physical challenges. The officers in the wardroom took the trophy, but the highlight was an impressive personal best from ET(WE) Matt Scott from Plymouth who lifted 230Kg in the deadlift.
After Formidable Shield, Argyll is spending the rest of the UK on operations around the UK before entering a period of maintenance next year.
“Argyll is a special ship, with a fantastic team and a well-deserved reputation for operational success,” said Cdr Wheen, who served as the frigate’s operations officer between 2013 and 2015.
“She is hugely capable and has a great deal still to offer. I very much look forward to meeting whatever challenges the future brings.”