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HMS Montrose visits namesake Scottish port

31 July 2018
HMS Montrose’s Commanding Officer Commander Conor O’Neill pays his respects at the monument to Bamse (pronounced ‘bump-sa’) – to Norwegian sailors what the legendary Great Dane 'Just Nuisance' was to British and Commonwealth serviceman in South Africa during World War 2.

In the darkest days of conflict, the St Bernard served aboard the minesweeper Thorodd, donned a helmet at action stations, enjoyed a pint in Montrose’s pubs, rode the local buses and cheered on his countrymen when they played football in nearby Dundee.

When he died of a heart attack in 1944, Norwegian sailors broke down in tears and people across Montrose mourned – so much so, in fact, that half a century later they raised £50,000 for this memorial on the waterfront and sailors from today’s HMS Montrose paid tribute during a rare visit to the small Scottish port – the first in four years.

After a hectic period in the Baltic, the frigate had just two days to catch up with her namesake town and affiliates.

The welcome that the people of Montrose gave us was fantastic and it was a pleasure to show off the ship to them.

Cdr Conor O'Neill RN

The first day of the visit saw the ship host a number cadet and youth organisations, as well as offering prospective candidates wishing to join the Navy a chance to look what could be their future home.

At the same time the ship sent football and rugby teams to play against local sides, a group volunteered to visit one of the ship’s affiliated charities, Dorwood House retirement home, others popped into the local British Legion and 15 went to the Montrose-St Johnstone pre-season football match (the Perth Scottish premiership side came away 1-0 winners).

Come evening and the ship was hosting a reception and capability demonstration, offering tours and explanations of what Montrose has been up to recently to a range of people from the local community.

It was also a chance to unveil a painting of the first ship named HMS Montrose, which had been found by a local resident, who wished to donate it to the ship; it depicts her role in the 1940 Dunkirk evacuations, during which she evacuated almost 1,000 troops before being badly damaged.

Finally, an Angus artist was also able to unveil an updated modern print of the vessel – she has a £38m refit has a new outline, thanks to the newly-installed Sea Ceptor Missile System.

With tickets being issued well in advance, Montrose then opened her doors to the public in glorious sunshine on the second day of her stay: more than 3,500 people toured the frigate in seven hours – pretty impressive given the town has a population of under 12,000.

Those coming aboard were treated to an explanation of how the weapon systems work, saw and took part in fire-fighting demonstrations and had the opportunity to sit in the ship’s Wildcat helicopter.

“The whole ship’s company were very proud to bring HMS Montrose ‘home’ for the weekend,” said Cdr O’Neill.

“The welcome that the people of Montrose gave us was fantastic and it was a pleasure to show off the ship to them.

“We will shortly deploy, so it was important that we made this visit now to cement the bonds that have been created between the ship’s company and the people of the town.

“Although we will be many miles apart, we will continue to support the local communities as best we can.”

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