HMS Tamar at sunset off the Australian coast

HMS Tamar has arrived in the Australian city of Cairns in preparation for a festive period and new year around the South Pacific islands.

The patrol ship will be one of the most active Royal Navy units as 2023 becomes 2024 on patrol around eastern Australasia.

She’ll do so with a new title – best overseas patrol vessel – and a new commanding officer, as Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith steps down after 28 months in charge.
Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith took charge of the ship just three weeks before she left Portsmouth on her five-year mission in company with her younger sister HMS Spey to reinvigorate the Royal Navy’s presence in the Asia-Indo-Pacific region.

Statistics give an idea of just how busy the ship has been since sailing from Portsmouth in September 2021. HMS Tamar has

  • sailed 60,623 nautical miles – two and a half times around the earth;
  • crossed the Equator five times and the International Date Line once;
  • visited 38 ports in Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, North America, East and South East Asia, Indian subcontinent, Australasia and Oceania. 

Commander Elliot-Smith said “The biggest impression left on me by it all: my sailors. It’s been a critical mission to tee up the UK and the Royal Navy in an uncertain and precarious region which will determine the world strategic balance for the remainder of this century.

“We’ll only come to understand the full significance of this work in years to come… and it been an absolute blast”. 

He leaves behind a new addition to the Tamar trophy cabinet: the Jersey Cup, awarded to the globally-deployed patrol vessel which has contributed the most to the Royal Navy’s effectiveness over the past 12 months in the eyes of senior officers.

They say Tamar has been the embodiment of “soft power” whose “strategic impact and high standards of delivery are setting a benchmark – not just for the Royal Navy – but for Navies across the region in their use of Offshore Patrol Vessels.”

Taking the reins in Cairns, a haven for backpackers and surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef, is Commander Tom Gell, a former boarding officer and fighter controller, he’s previously commanded minehunters Grimsby and Penzance on NATO duties and in the Gulf.

“The crew have done an amazing job and have really delivered over the last two years,” he said.

“This has been incredibly challenging noting they are operating so far from home. I very much look forward to joining such a great team and supporting the UK’s Overseas Territories as we continue to build relationships with our friends and partners in the region.” 

Once a spell of maintenance and stores have been loaded, Tamar will conduct a period of maritime security operations in the Pacific Ocean in the run up to Christmas.