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Sutherland enters paradise on rare visit to Indian Ocean idyll

10 February 2018
HMS Sutherland became only the third British warship this decade to visit a remote Indian Ocean idyll.

Although Diego Garcia is British soil, it’s so far away from the Royal Navy’s normal patrol areas and shipping routes that only survey vessel HMS Protector and nuclear submarine HMS Trenchant have stopped off there since 2010.

The island, part of the Chagos archipelago, lies 1,100 miles south of the tip of India, 1,950 miles from the Horn of Africa, 2,250 miles from Singapore and 800 miles from Male, capital of the Maldives.

These days, Diego Garcia is largely a staging post and supply base for the US military, but it remains British territory, with a mostly-Royal Navy garrison responsible for duties such as customs and policing.

"My favourite part of the visit was the scenery, unspoiled by tourists,” said Leading Writer Alex 'Chats' Harris. “The island is pristine and the many beaches and water sports activities available were amazing. I will definitely be looking to get a draft there in the future."

Visiting Diego Garcia was a great opportunity – we learned about how they provide care thousands of miles away from the nearest major hospital in Singapore,

Leading Medical Assistant Liam O'Grady

Leading Medical Assistant Liam O'Grady, who earned the Military Cross for saving the lives of four comrades in Afghanistan, conducted some training with the US Navy’s medical centre on the island.

"Visiting Diego Garcia was a great opportunity – we learned about how they provide care thousands of miles away from the nearest major hospital in Singapore,” he said.

“Keeping the ship's company safe and aware of the threat from the local wildlife – a bit different from Devonport – was also interesting!"

Able Seaman (Seaman Specialist) Jack Greenfield “went out fishing early one morning”.

“We must have caught around 30 fish and saw turtles and sharks. It was a great day.”

Officer of the Watch Sub Lieutenant Dave Ferguson was on the bridge, carefully guiding HMS Sutherland into harbour.

“It's a beautiful island, certainly different from anywhere I've been before,” he said.

“This is my first deployment and I've had a lot of new experiences already, such as working with other coalition nations during our time in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean."

The Fighting Clan is heading for Australia on the first leg of a marathon deployment to the Pacific Rim, where she’ll be showcasing the best of RN and British naval technology with a view to persuading Canberra to ‘buy British’ – or at least a British design – when it looks at its next generation of warships.

Since leaving Devonport in January, the Type 23 frigate has raced across six time zones and, having clocked almost 8,000 nautical miles already, is nearing a record in the ship's life for the highest number of miles steamed in a month.

She’s one of two British frigates being dispatched to the Far East this year; her sister HMS Argyll follows later in 2018, the first Royal Navy vessels sent to the Pacific since HMS Daring conducted a world tour five years ago.

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