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HMS Albion leads the way as Surface Fleet stars are honoured

14 December 2022
Hopefully there’s space in the rigging, because HMS Albion has not one, not two but three new flags to hoist over the next 12 months.

The UK’s amphibious flagship – which returned home from leading the RN’s key autumn deployment to the Mediterranean last weekend – has been awarded three pennants for rising above the rest of the Fleet in three key areas in the annual Efficiency Awards.

Each year the Surface Flotilla analyses the effect, impact and work of the entire front-line fleet, issuing trophies to those it believes have delivered the most or performed the best. In the case of ships, that means the right to fly a blue-white pennant fouled with hippocampi (seahorses).

Albion shone in three distinct fields: best of three active capital ships; best contribution to electronic warfare; and the highest standards of seamanship.

Albion and her ship’s company of sailors and Royal Marines has been tested in waters cold (Arctic) and warm (Med, North Africa, Adriatic) in 2022, but has also found time to support the training of next-generation officers, engineers and reservists, welcomed her sponsor Princess Anne and affiliates/families, and flew the flag for the UK and its armed forces throughout the Mediterranean.

Her work in the electronic warfare sphere provided key intelligence for the UK and its closest allies and as for the seamen specialists, they rose to the challenges of busy and demanding operations in the harshest of environments. Albion spent nearly half of 2022 at sea, conducted 22 entries/exits to overseas ports (some known, some not), frequently taken the ship to buoys, helped choreograph photoshoots involving to 20 international warships, and safely overseen numerous replenishments at sea, all carried out “with alacrity and professionalism”. 

Other trophies awarded by Commander Surface Flotilla, Commodore Tim Nield, and his staff were the Naval Capability, presented to frigate HMS Northumberland, heavily engaged throughout the year on anti-submarine warfare duties and security patrols from the Arctic to the Atlantic and Mediterranean, with the minehunting sailors of MCM1 Crew 2.

HMS Defender was named the best of the six Type 45 destroyers ahead of her sister Diamond (and also took the ‘best communications’ title, nudging 45 Commando Royal Marines into the runners-up spot).

HMS Montrose is No.1 frigate for her consistent, persistent efforts in the Gulf region, ahead of HMS Northumberland.

The Jersey Cup for the best Offshore Patrol Vessel goes to HMS Mersey, which has largely been operating in home waters, with HMS Spey – deployed with HMS Tamar on a five-year mission to the Indo-Pacific region. 

And the Jim Acton Trophy for mine warfare – named after an officer killed in an earthquake in Turkey – goes to MCM1 Crew 6 (not currently assigned to any ship), ahead of MCM2 Crew 1 (HMS Brocklesby).

The work of HMS Scott – the fifth largest vessel in the RN  to fly the White Ensign – gathering record amounts of data in the central Atlantic, make her the Hydrographic ship of the year, with coastal survey craft HMS Magpie the runner-up. 

Staying with smaller vessels, P2000 HMS Exploit receives the Inshore Patrol Vessel Trophy and pennant, narrowly proving more effective than her sister HMS Charger. 

The Grytviken Cup for demonstrating exceptional prowess in above-water warfare goes to HMS Diamond, with her sister Defender as runner-up. 

And for hunting ‘the enemy below’ HMS Portland takes the title and pennant for anti-submarine warfare, followed by HMS Northumberland. 

Delta Diving Unit 2 take the Fleet Diving Trophy ahead of their colleagues in Alpha Diving Unit 2. 

HMS Protector’s marine engineers took their specialisation’s trophy for keeping the ice ship running in the polar extremes, thousands of miles from home in Devonport. HMS Lancaster and Defender were joint runners-up.

Destroyer HMS Dauntless will raise the ‘rulers of the road’ pennant when she returns to sea on training in the new year for her knowledge of navigation and seafaring, scoring 98 per cent in a FOST exam… 0.2 per cent better than runner-up HMS Severn, the RN’s dedicated navigational training vessel.

Beyond ships and squadrons, there are also group and individual awards, such as the Fleet Intelligence Trophy won (collectively) by the MIFC ‘Rest of the World’ team and (individually) by Lt Stewart of PJHQ/J2.

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