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20 February 2023
HMS Spey became the first Royal Navy warship to visit Cambodia since the 1950s.

The patrol ship sailed into the port of Sihanoukville almost 65 years to the day that the White Ensign was last seen in a Cambodian harbour.

Spey is spending five days in Ream Naval Base, which lies 100 miles southwest of the capital Phnom Penh, for a series of goodwill events marking 70 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Cambodia.

Local dignitaries and media were waiting on the jetty for Spey, whose 50-strong crew are spending the rest of week either hosting or attending a series of events to highlight the UK’s renewed presence in Southeast Asia, promote Anglo-Cambodian cooperation and trumpet the message of an outward-facing Global Britain.

In particular, the two countries are looking to forge strong military ties, on the back of accrediting the first non-resident defence attaché since the 1970s and welcoming the first Cambodian student at Sandhurst. 

On the naval front, Spey is hosting capability demonstrations and briefings for senior Cambodian military figures, plus a formal reception and Ceremonial Sunset.
In addition, sailors have taken part in football and volleyball matches, and hosted Cambodia technology and cookery students. 

Chefs Leading Seaman Steve Dallimore and Petty Officer Andy Copeland hosted young people from a charity which offers culinary training and experience in Spey’s galley.

“We thoroughly enjoyed welcoming students from the M’Lop Tapang training restaurant into the galley, it was great to be able to encourage younger budding chefs and give them a taste of life on board,” said Steve.

Dominic Williams, Britain’s Ambassador to Cambodia, said the charity had been left with a memorable experience – and that the Royal Navy had been excellent hosts. “It was lovely to accompany the bright and enthusiastic young people on board. HMS Spey made them feel really welcome.”

The visit to Cambodia by HMS Spey comes on the back of a five-day stop in Ho Chi Minh City in neighbouring Vietnam – with almost identical aims.

Here, it was kicking off celebrations marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Hanoi which lay at the heart of Spey’s visit.

It was a fantastic opportunity to host – and to be hosted – in Ho Chi Minh City. We felt very welcomed and look forward to visiting again in the future.

Lieutenant Bruce Clarke

Aside from naval talks and demonstrations, there were cultural exchanges and Spey hosted 18 pupils from Ho Chi Minh City’s British International School, introducing them to the basics of navigating and highlighting the ship’s environmental tech which makes her the greenest in the Fleet, while the ship’s footballers took on the local Vietnamese Naval Brigade, losing out by the odd goal in 11.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to host – and to be hosted – in Ho Chi Minh City. We felt very welcomed and look forward to visiting again in the future,” said Lieutenant Bruce Clarke.

Weapons engineer Leading Engineer Technician Cian Conroy added: “What a great visit Ho Chi Minh City was, experiencing the culture and tasting the delicious food”

Spey also used the visit to advance gender equality by marking the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, led by the ship’s doctor, Surgeon Lieutenant Ellen Moore and weapons engineer Petty Officer Hannah Chenery, who said: “It was a great opportunity to be in Vietnam and promote equality in Engineering and Medicine to all the students”.

Unlike Cambodia, Vietnam has been visited on a regular basis for the last few decades; Spey’s the fourth Royal Navy ship to call on the country in the past five years, making the UK among Vietnam’s most persistent and reliable partners in maritime security.

“We had a wonderful time in Vietnam,” said Commanding Officer Commander Michael Proudman. 

“What an honour it was to host the first event of the year to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

“This visit does not only represented an opportunity for us to intensify our collaboration with our Vietnamese counterparts but also underline the UK's ongoing commitment to promoting global stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”  

Upon leaving Khanh Hoi Port for the relatively-short journey to Sihanoukville, Spey conducted exercises with Vietnamese Navy missile ship 378 before continuing west.

With her sister HMS Tamar – currently in the Indian Ocean – HMS Spey is on a five-year mission to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the first persistent presence here in a quarter of a century, working with friends, allies and partners, championing British industry and values and ensuring maritime security.

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