A Royal Navy patrol ship is officially ready to take to the open seas after a special ceremony in Ross-shire today.
HMS Spey has been formally commissioned into service after months of operational sea training, and docked in her affiliated town of Invergordon for the event.
Her 45-strong crew – who described her as a “2,000 tonne Swiss Army knife” – lined up on the deck for the ceremony, which included a spectacular fly-past from RAF Lossiemouth’s Poseidon team.
The 295ft vessel is the fifth and final of the second-generation River Class vessels built for the Royal Navy on the Clyde.
Commanding officer of the ship Lieutenant Commander Ben Evans described his pride at bringing the vessel back to its Scottish homeland, but admitted it had not all been smooth sailing.
He said: “I’m extremely proud. This is an idea that came up in 2019 when the ship was first named in Glasgow to make our commissioning ceremony happen in Scotland, on a Scottish ship, built in Scotland with Scottish links.
“I think it’s been tough for everyone in the country with Covid-19 but we have maintained output and we have achieved everything we needed to do. We have achieved operational status in four months which is a fantastic effort by my ship’s company.
“Now we are ready for operations and the commissioning ceremony is an important milestone as we are placed into active service.”
About the ship
HMS Spey can accommodate up to 60 sailors and up to 50 embarked forces such as the Royal Marines and Special Forces.
Her flight deck is large enough for a Royal Navy Merlin helicopter.
It also has a huge show of force, housing one Seahawk A2 30mm Chain Gunn, two Mark 44 Miniguns and four General Purpose Machine Guns.
In a matter of weeks, the vessel will deploy from its home port of HMNB Portsmouth, bound for the Indo-Pacific Asia, visiting destinations including New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.
I would urge you to relish in the adventures which are yet to come.”
Rear Admiral Simon Asquith, Commander Operations.
Scottish Secretary Iain Stewart said: “Introducing the Clyde-built patrol vessel HMS Spey into active service once again shows that not only does defence play a crucial role in the security of the United Kingdom, but it also contributes to Scotland’s prosperity through employment and investment.
“HMS Spey will always have a close bond with her affiliated town of Invergordon, but her foreseeable future is in the Indo-Asian-Pacific region where she will be deployed as part of the Royal Navy’s role in Global Britain.”
Looking ahead to overseas deployment
Annabel Trown, 21, from Glasgow is an engineering technician onboard.
The 21-year-old spoke of her excitement at being a female in the military and following in the footsteps of her ancestors in the engineering field.
“Its a privilege to be in this position and because we are a different generation, it’s normal for us,” she said.
“My grandad was a ship builder at Clydebank in Glasgow and I just thought ‘I want to do that’.
“In engineering, a lot of the time I am the only female, but you really don’t realise it because we’re such good friends and part of a team.”
For 26-year-old Sub-lieutenant Kieran Davies, his deployment on the HMS Spey is a highlight of his three-year naval career so far.
He joined the navy with aspirations of travelling the world, and said he couldn’t wait to set off.
“It’s been a busy period and we have a busy period coming up but the deployment we’ve got, the job we are going to, I am really excited about,” he said.
“It should be a good trip.
“I look forward to going to places you wouldn’t otherwise go, for instance small islands in the Pacific.
“There is also that element of pride in being able to fly the flag overseas.”
The commissioning ceremony at Saltburn Pier in Invergordon was attended by a range of special invited guests, who were treated to a performance by the Royal Marines Scotland Band.
Personnel from the ship’s 45-strong crew stood with pride as the Ship’s Lady Sponsor Lady Allison Johnstone inspected the sailors and blessed them on their forthcoming voyage.
A ceremonial cake was also cut by Lady Johnstone and 19-year-old Shaun Fletcher, the youngest skipper onboard.
Among the attendees was Rear Admiral Simon Asquith, the Royal Navy’s Commander Operations, who praised the choice of name – which not only refers to the River Spey, but has historic links.
“HMS Spey is a fine name for two reasons I think,” he told the crew. “Firstly because of its illustrious forbearing namesake HMS Spey of World War II, who fought with distinction in the north Atlantic, being credited with sinking a U-boat.
“The second reason to be proud of HMS Spey I think is that your name gives you a link to this corner of north-east Scotland.
“I think you are truly blessed to be affiliated with one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom where the welcome, if not always the weather, I’m sure will be very warm indeed.”
He also congratulated the crew on their efforts so far, adding: “You should take pride in what you have achieved to date. It is no mean feat to bring a ship from build into operational service and you are already developing a fine reputation for the ship.
“Perhaps more importantly I would urge you to relish in the adventures which are yet to come as you form again as this tight ships company deploys permanently to the Indo-Asian Pacific. I know you have fantastic adventures ahead and you will do the Royal Navy and the White Ensign proud.”