Dave’s column in the Angus County Press, 23rd March 2023
Last year when I learned HMS Montrose was soon to be decommissioned, after almost half a million miles over 31 years of service since she was built on the Clyde, I contacted the Naval Commander for Scotland at HMS Caledonia near Rosyth and met with him to seek assurance that as part of her decommissioning tour she would definitely call into Montrose Port. I was very pleased to receive this assurance.
HMS Montrose is a Duke Class Type 23 Frigate of the Royal Navy and represents a class of ship rightly regarded as the backbone of the fleet. Where the two new carriers may generate the headlines, for a number of reasons, and the six Type 45 Destroyers pack real fire power, it is the Type 23s that principally deliver for the Navy in the general purpose and anti-submarine role.
I was lucky enough to spend time about HMS Montrose while in active service in 2022 and learn of her capability and that of her extraordinary crew of sailors and officers. HMS Montrose has for decades delivered in combat and in many missions intercepting drug traffickers, frustrating piracy operations and escorting less friendly vessels past Scottish and English waters.
When HMS Montrose tied up alongside in Montrose on 12th March fully 5000 people came to visit her being looked after superbly by her crew and the Royal Marines who were also on hand to assist in an exceptionally well organised event. Such was the interest long queues were the order of the blustery, chilly day but it was dry thankfully and spirits were high – this was obviously a very proud day for the town with visitors coming from near and far.
For the Navy’s part, engagement of this kind is a vital way to connect with communities and highlight the work they do usually out of sight but hopefully not out of mind. From Scotland’s point of view, where one outstanding old Scottish ship retires, she will be replaced soon by a new chapter of outstanding Scottish naval engineering.
Just down the coast in Rosyth, Babcock are building five incredible new Type 31 Arrowhead frigates to replace Type 23 in the General Purpose role while, across in Govan, BAE are building eight world class Type 26 frigates to relieve the 23s of their anti-submarine duties.
Scotland was central to generating the Type 23 fleet back in the 90s and remains so in designing and building her replacements today. There existed a justifiable pride in Montrose when her namesake visited to say goodbye, and there remains pride across Scotland at our enduring role in Naval enterprise.