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Spey spices things up with debut visit to the Indian mainland

1 February 2024
Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Spey has paid her first visits to the Indian mainland strengthening ties between London and Delhi – and the two Commonwealth navies.

As the defence secretaries of the two nations met in London to announce an enhanced military partnership, the River-class patrol ship sailed into Visakhapatnam to a ceremonial band, helicopter fly over and a warm welcome by their hosts, Indian Navy corvette Khanjar.

It is 79 years since Spey’s namesake predecessor, a hard-worked WW2 frigate, sailed from Visakhapatnam with a task force to drive the Japanese out of Ramree Island in Burma… an infamous action as most of the defenders were killed by salt water crocodiles rather than the attacking Brits.

The welcome in Visakhapatnam was considerably more friendly. Spey’s Commanding Officer Commander Paul Caddy was greeted by the senior Indian Naval officer in this part of the country, Flag Officer Commanding Headquarters Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Rajesh Dhankar NM.

After a series of meetings, sports matches and shared events in the city, Spey sailed for some combined training in the Bay of Bengal with anti-submarine corvette, INS Kavaratti, including some particularly close-quarters manoeuvres (the two ships were just 30 metres (100ft) apart at times.

“This visit proved an important milestone for Spey,” said Commander Caddy. “Our first visit to mainland India demonstrated the importance of our relationship to tackle shared challenges in the Indian Ocean. The hospitality and support provided was world class and the visit provided an opportunity to demonstrate the human bridge that the UK and India share.”

Spey then continued to the west coast and Kochi, an historic trading city bridging the gap between East and West, the original resting place of explorer Vasco Da Gama and the home of Indian naval training.

The Overseas Patrol Vessels hold a unique ability to convene likeminded nations together around shared challenges.

As the greenest ship in the Royal Navy, Spey was the fitting host for an environmental symposium onboard, looking at ways for the maritime sector to come together to tackle climate change.

“HMS Spey’s green credentials enable us to patrol even the world’s most protected marine sites,” said Lieutenant Bruce Clarke, who led one of the discussions at the event.

“It’s excellent to see industry, the Royal Navy and academics come together to discuss the challenges facing the world’s oceans and how Spey can play a role in supporting these discussions.”

As home of Indian Navy training, there was the unique opportunity for Indian and Royal Navy assessors to put Spey’s ship’s company through their paces.

 
It was an amazing opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with so many like-minded people from across society

Leading Medical Assistant Tash Wylie

Sailors completed a fire-fighting exercise, including a challenging ‘blaze’ in the main engine room, and also demonstrated how they might respond to an attack in harbour from a fast attack craft.

All of which is paving the way for closer cooperation between the two navies. Spey’s Commanding Officer and Commodore Sarvpreet Singh discussed joint training/working, reaffirming the recent commitment by Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to enhance the UK and India’s ability to train together. This year will also see the first Indian Naval Officer leading a cohort at Britannia Royal Naval College.

Spey also built on friendships made by frigate HMS Lancaster when she called into Kochi 12 months ago, not least a visit to youngsters at Don Bosco orphanage – the city’s oldest children’s home – to teach new skills and interact with its residents, while shipmates also volunteered at the Subhas Chandra Bose Garden in Ernakulam.

Three members of the ship’s company attended an influential women’s conference involving female leaders from business, academics, community, social justice and the military, who shared their experiences, among them Leading Medical Assistant Tash Wylie.

“It was an amazing opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with so many like-minded people from across society,” she said.

Another friend from Lancaster’s visit was Suresh Pillai – generally known in the culinary world simply as Chef Pillai – who brought his team to the frigate to serve up some authentic Indian food.

One of the world’s best known and respected Anglo-Indian chefs, who’s made his name in both Britain and India, he turned Spey’s flight deck into an open air galley to cook and serve traditional dishes from the sub-continent.

This was an opportunity to demonstrate the talent of the chefs onboard who can transform from emergency feeding stations during humanitarian aid and disaster relief, to competing with a renowned Michelin-star chef whose teams served seven million meals across their restaurants in 2023.

The next leg of Spey’s Indian Ocean mission has now taken the patrol ship to Sri Lanka.

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