The Royal Navy frigate HMS Portland lead the Maritime component in a Tri-Service week long exercise “Purple Strike” involving all of the military units based in the Falkland Islands. Exercises are conducted on a regular basis to ensure all units are prepared and capable of dealing with any eventuality, including the ability to defend the Falklands if required.
Initially HMS Portland teamed up with the Falkland Island’s Patrol Ship HMS Clyde to deploy the Roulement Infantry Company, currently the Welsh Guards with elements of the Light Dragoons, to investigate reports of enemy troops on West Falkland.
As the week wore on HMS Portland flexed her Anti-submarine Warfare skills by hunting for an enemy submarine that was “sighted” in and around the Islands. The Ship’s Lynx helicopter also provided support to the troops ashore while the frigate prepared for a simulated emergency landing. Flight safety exercises are conducted regularly to ensure the ship’s company can respond effectively to short notice emergencies.
Weapon Engineer “Paris” Hilton who is responsible for Air Weapons said: ”The ability to safely deploy the Ship’s helicopter adds to Portland’s versatility. It can undertake many roles from prosecuting enemy submarines to providing reassurance to the people of the Falkland’s in remote settlements. I am proud to be part of the team who delivers that effect.”
The exercise culminated with the Devonport based Frigate berthing in a ‘hostile’ port where she landed a shore patrol to establish a security cordon and allow fuel and supplies to be offloaded from RFA Black Rover.
During July “HMS Portland” was on patrol in South Georgia waters according to the latest South Georgia newsletter. The type 23 frigate, captained by Commander Mike Knott, made a circuit of the Island, and entered the dramatic Drygalski Fjord, at the southern end of the Island, as dawn broke on July 23rd. High winds were whipping out of the fjord and prevented the ship going in more than half way, but luckily the conditions were local and after a fast passage the ship was again amongst fabulous scenery and weather, as it picked its way through brash ice to approach the Nordenskjold Glacier in Cumberland East Bay.
A group of infantry were disembarked to make patrols on foot. Over the next three days the crew took it in turns to be landed ashore. Landing operations were assisted by the two GSGSSI harbour launches. The lack of deep snow, though unusual for this stage of the winter, was a bonus for walkers making it easy to walk from KEP to visit the old whaling station at Grytviken.
Many of the crew aboard “HMS Portland” had visited the Island before, though in many cases it was more than ten years ago. Those returning were interested to see the changes to the whaling station after the 'Remeditation Project', reinstatement of hydroelectricity, and the change from KEP being manned by a military garrison living in the old barrack building at Hope Point, to the modern science base that now dominates the foreshore of the Point.