Nearly six million tonnes of British shipping has been safeguarded by the Royal Navy in the first two months of protecting vessels from unwanted aggression.
Nearly 90 British merchant ships were safely shepherded through the Strait of Hormuz by frigate HMS Montrose and destroyer HMS Duncan during a hectic two months responding to threats by Tehran.
Montrose passed through the narrow gateway to the Gulf 38 times – each time observed by Iranian forces, broadcasting on radios, with drones watching every move overhead and boats often approaching with intent. The Plymouth-based frigate, which completed the first phase of its escort duties late last week, was forced to fire flares on more than a dozen occasions as she warned off the Iranian forces.
The ship prevented the Iranians seizing the British Heritage, performing a ‘handbrake turn’ at full speed and training all her guns on the tanker’s harassers. But just nine days later Iranian troops succeeded in hijacking the Stena Impero while Montrose was helping to protect other shipping half an hour away.
Since then tensions have lessened. But on her final patrol before a period of maintenance and changeover of crew in Bahrain, Montrose – and Duncan – found themselves spied on by drones and an Iranian patrol craft as the two Royal Navy warships accompanied tankers Hellespont Pride and Moonbeam and the container ship Brighton.
The frigate’s crew say the two months on patrol in the strait – 64 days with the ship’s company working around the clock with few breaks – have been tough but hugely satisfying.
Aside from the Stena Impero incident, Montrose alone was responsible for ensuring 60 British ships – carrying more than five million tonnes of oil, liquid natural gas, cars and other commodities – reached their destinations safely.
Commander Will King said the deployment had been “intense but also hugely rewarding. We have been probed by the Iranians daily – 115 interactions in all. The numbers – 38 transits of the strait, 60 British vessels accompanied, over five million tonnes of UK shipping protected – speak for themselves.”
Despite such threats, Montrose’s sailors have repeatedly sought to prevent a tense situation escalating – so far the only thing fired have been warning flares as they drove away Iranian boats.
Thirty-year-old Leading Physical Trainer Damon Bell from Carlisle was at the ship’s wheel when the attackers were driven away from the British Heritage: “Protecting the British Heritage was probably the best thing I have ever done. Doing what was effectively a handbrake turn around the back of a tanker – that was a classy move. Before we came out here, there was endless training and the guys were getting a bit fed up. But then we came here, did a real job, made a difference, there’s a meaning to what we’re doing, and you realise that the training works.”
Words and images Crown copyright, RN.