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Royal Navy continues its global mission over festive period

HMS Protector moves between giant icebergs off Antarctica
24 December 2021
Thousands of sailors and Royal Marines are on duty from Plymouth to the Pole and Pacific this Christmas.

Half a dozen ships are at sea on December 25, while many more are in bases at home and overseas, their crews at hours’ notice to sail alongside their supporting Fleet Air Arm squadrons.

At the end of a busy 2021 – when the Royal Navy has again fulfilled existing commitments at home and abroad, and performed new missions, such as deploying HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Pacific and back, and helping to vaccinate the nation against Covid – around 2,000 personnel are on duty or on call.

Sailors in sister ships HMS Tamar and Spey will celebrate Christmas 19 hours apart – despite both sailing through the Western Pacific.

Tamar – which is flagship of the small force which is bringing back the Navy’s permanent presence to the Indo-Pacific after 25 years – is nine hours ahead of the UK.

Spey, which is in Hawaii, is the other side of the International Date Line and ten hours behind the UK.

So while you are watching the Queen’s Speech while downing turkey and stuffing… it’ll be the stroke of Boxing Day on Tamar… and 5am on Spey.

In the Middle East, minehunters Chiddingfold and Penzance plus their mother ship RFA Lyme Bay will be soaking up the Dubai sun.

Their three Gulf companions – HMS Montrose, Middleton and Bangor – are all on patrol.

In the Mediterranean, HMS Trent is spending her first Christmas overseas… as is new patrol boat HMS Cutlass, the recent addition to the Gibraltar Squadron.

HMS Medway is in Jacksonville, Florida, after a busy autumn in the Caribbean with tanker RFA Wave Knight, which is making her way home through the Atlantic.

Although the ship’s company is absent from friends and loved ones at this time of year, there is a real sense of ‘family spirit and togetherness’ in HMS Protector and full advantage will be taken of this spectacular location at this magical time of year

Captain Michael Wood, Commanding Officer, HMS Protector

In the Southern Hemisphere, HMS Forth is spending Christmas at East Cove in the Falklands.

And as there has been since every Christmas Day since 1969, a submarine carrying the nation’s nuclear deterrent will be on patrol somewhere beneath the waves.

Guaranteed a white Christmas are the crew of HMS Protector, who are at Rothera in Antarctica.

Although it’s mid-summer and there’s 24-hour daylight, the temperature is just 1°C.

After a carol service today, tomorrow officers will serve the rest of the crew their Christmas dinner in naval tradition, followed by a ship’s raffle.

Marine engineer Lieutenant Oliver Durrant added: “Who needs jingle bells when you have the hum of two Rolls-Royce Bergen BRG M-8 engines with a propulsion power of over 3.5MW in Antarctica surrounded by an amazing team. It’s like Christmas everyday.”

Messes and departments organise Secret Santas, while forward-thinking sailors received their presents before the ship sailed from the UK in the summer.

The communications team onboard have organised a roster so everyone has the chance to phone home via the welfare service over the festive period and there is WiFi onboard too.

“It is a privilege to be part of the 0.005 per cent of the world’s population that has been to Antarctica. Achieving this over the Christmas period makes the experience even more extraordinary,” said Leading Supply Chain specialist Kasey Eason.

And all families receive a letter from the ship’s Commanding Officer Captain Michael Wood thanking them for their support, forbearance, strength and understanding while loved ones are away over the holidays.

“Although the ship’s company is absent from friends and loved ones at this time of year, there is a real sense of ‘family spirit and togetherness’ in HMS Protector and full advantage will be taken of this spectacular location at this magical time of year,” he said.

“On behalf of my ship’s company, I would like to wish everybody at home a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

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