HMS Montrose had a warm welcome as she visited her Angus namesake for the first time in six years.
The Plymouth based Type 23 frigate set sail from the town’s harbour on Monday (July 7) morning after arriving last Tuesday (July 1) for only the fourth time in 20 years.
Montrose’s commanding officer, Commander James Parkin RN, said: “This was a very important visit for the ship. My predecessor Jonathan Lett said his biggest regret was not taking the ship to Montrose because the programme simply didn’t allow it.
“I knew right from the very beginning that I wanted to bring HMS Montrose home. It is the proudest moment of my naval career.
“We see Plymouth as our base but Montrose is our home. I consider myself to be an honorary Gable Ender.”
With bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying, the ship’s company, led by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Scotland, marched the full length of Montrose High Street for only the second time in 12 years.
The Provost of Angus, Councillor Helen Oswald, inspected the guard of honour and the ship’s company as it passed through the town centre.
She then took the salute, alongside Georgiana Osborne, the Lord Lieutenant of Angus, Captain Chris Smith, regional commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland and Commander Parkin.
The Freedom of Angus was conferred on the commanding officer and ship’s company in 2002 in recognition of their long and close association with the people of Angus.
“I’d never seen my ship’s company march in front of me before,” said Commander Parkin.
On her third day in the town, HMS Montrose opened her gangway to visitors.
Commander Parkin said: “This was a special event because we were in Montrose. We don’t usually open her up to the public.
“All sailors are show offs, myself included. I can’t think of anything better than showing my ship off to our friends in Angus and Montrose.”
Lieutenant Commander Adam Coates, the ship’s Weapon Engineer Officer, who has only been on board for six weeks, said: “It has been a real honour to visit the town of Montrose so soon after I joined HMS Montrose, everyone here has made us feel so very welcome, making this port visit even more special than we imagined.
“As one of the refit crew I’m looking forward to maintaining our close ties with the people here even while the ship is in dry dock in our Devon base port.”
In the middle of the whirlwind of activity during HMS Montrose’s visit to her namesake port, Commander Parkin found time to visit the statue of sea dog Bamse, the famous World War Two canine hero, and place a wreath.
Commander Parkin walked the short distance from where HMS Montrose was berthed at the North Quay of the harbour to the iconic statue of Bamse at Wharf Street, accompanied by local St Bernard Benson.
He then laid a wreath of remembrance at the feet of the giant dog, with a simple but moving message, “In memory of a truly remarkable dog, and all who served alongside British and Norwegian forces in Angus in WW2. James Parkin, CO HMS Montrose 2 July 2014”.
Commander Parkin said: “We are delighted to have brought HMS Montrose into port here for the first time in six years, and we are so pleased with the welcome we have received from the people of Angus.”
The visit of HMS Montrose to the port of Montrose falls in the same month as the 70th anniversary of the death of the Allied Forces’ Mascot on July 24, 1944.
Commander Parkin added: “Everyone on board has come to learn about sea dog Bamse, especially as there is a miniature statue of him on display in my cabin. It is with sadness that we cannot be here at the same time as the Royal Norwegian Coast Guard visit and the commemoration events planned for July 21, but I am delighted we have had this opportunity to pay our respects to this extraordinary animal.”
The Montrose Coastguard Rescue Team were invited on board HMS Montrose for a tour of the ship and its systems.
The team were interested to see the operations room in the bowels of the ship, as well as learning about its search and rescue capability.
Ross Greenhill, area commander was presented with a signed photograph celebrating the ship’s return home.
He said: “It was a great honour to have this invite for the team from the Commanding Officer. It was a very informative visit giving us all an excellent insight into life on board an active navy vessel.”
A marching platoon from the ship joined colleagues from the army and RAF at Dundee’s Armed Forces Day parade on Saturday and local youth organisations, including Sea Cadets from Grampian, Fife and Tayside, also got the chance to find out about the ship with pre-arranged tours on board over the weekend.
Commander Parkin and his company also donated £1,000 to Angus Riding For the Disabled. The commanding officer even joined the youngsters and rode a horse during his visit to the Forfar centre.
He said: “It was wonderful to see the children smile and have a good time.”
HMS Montrose’s visit to her hometown was the final time the ship will visit anywhere outside her Plymouth base port for two years as will be getting a refit later in the year.
Commander Parkin said: “This is probably my last sea job and I can’t think of a better place to finish than in Montrose.”