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Royal Navy patrol ships trade places in Falklands

20 November 2023
Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Medway has completed a nine-month stint in the Falklands and is returning to warmer waters.

The River-class vessel is returning to her normal stomping ground of the Caribbean having handed over to her sister ship HMS Forth, whom she’s stood in for through most of 2023.

Forth has spent the majority of this year in Gibraltar after three years constantly on patrol in the unforgiving South Atlantic.

The Falklands mission is focused on reassurance to and support for the island community, visiting the outlying hamlets, settlements and individual farms and conducting joint training with RAF, Army and authorities on a host of tasks: search and rescue support, fishery protection and general maritime security in the area.

The RAF in particular proved vital in getting to know the 700+ islands, regularly taking Medway’s sailors up for ‘acquaint’ flights to understand the size and topography of islands which cover an area roughly half the size of Wales... but with a population not even half as numerous as Torpoint.

It’s impossible to serve in the islands and not immerse yourself in their history, especially the 1982 conflict (one of the tasks of the RN patrol ship is to maintain the memorials in some of the more remote locations, such as Sea Lion Island (HMS Sheffield) or Pebble Island (HMS Coventry).

Medway spent 105 days on patrol around the Falklands and neighbouring South Georgia, adding more than 16,500 nautical miles – equivalent so sailing three quarters of the way around the globe – to her tachometer.

The several visits to South Georgia with its unique blend of rugged landscapes, abundant wildlife – including massive colonies of king penguins, fur seals, and numerous bird species – and fascinating history proved the highlight of the ship’s ‘loan period’ to the South Atlantic for many crew.

Sailors took advantage of guided tours to the old whaling stations which showcase remnants of a once-thriving industry and providing insights into the island’s past.

I am extremely proud of the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by my crew during our time in the Falkland Islands.

Commander Jon Fletcher

As well as offering an insight into the island’s history, the tours lay the foundation for understanding the fragile ecosystem and the importance of conservation efforts in this remote part of the world.

“We’ve formed memories to last a lifetime,” said Tom. “We’ve been enriched by the vivid historical narratives, invigorated by helicopter flights, and I don’t think any of us can ever fail to be charmed by the penguins.

“The Falklands have offered everyone on HMS Medway a unique fusion of adventure, education, and connection to the natural world, reminding us, once again, of the profound privilege of serving in the Royal Navy.”

Medway is now making her way back to the Americas, also heading ‘home’ for a period of maintenance following her spell in the South Atlantic, before resuming her regular patrols supporting British citizens in the region’s overseas territories, working with allies on counter-narcotic operations and being on hand to offer support in the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes.

“I am extremely proud of the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by my crew during our time in the Falkland Islands,” said Commander Jon Fletcher, Medway’s Commanding Officer.

“Their hard work and commitment to our shared goals were fundamental in ensuring Medway left a positive legacy. We’re all now eagerly anticipate our return to the Caribbean.”

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