(amends spelling in par 10)
The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped one of the Royal Navy’s newest warships being made ready for deployment in record time.
HMS Trent has set sail for the Mediterranean, where she will bolster UK and Nato forces in the region.
The commanding officer’s young son waved as he watched his father’s ship leave Portsmouth Harbour on Monday afternoon.
Earlier the vessel’s proud crew stood to attention beside her as she was officially commissioned at a quiet ceremony.
Among them was 18-year-old Robson Gelder, the youngest member of the ship’s company, whose parents were among the many friends and family watching the proceedings live online, a necessity to ensure social distancing.
— HMNB Portsmouth (@HMNBPortsmouth) August 3, 2020
The 295ft (90m) River class patrol ship – sporting a blue stag on her side – is designed for counter-piracy, anti-smuggling, fishery protection, border patrol, counter-terrorism and maritime defence duties.
The ceremony, at Portsmouth Naval Base, took place in bright sunshine in front of a handful of distinguished members of the armed forces.
A band from the Royal Marines School of Music was on hand to perform songs including the national anthem.
Following prayers led by Reverend Martin Evans, the crew joined him in calling out “Bless our ship!” as he wished them good luck.
Addressing the crew, HMS Trent’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander James Wallington-Smith said: “It is my distinct privilege and pleasure to stand here this morning as the Commanding Officer on such a distinguished and memorable day.”
He added that it was a “great sadness” that friends and family could not attend the commissioning ceremony as they normally would have before the pandemic.
“It is the understated support of all those around us who form the backbone on which we are able to to our job,” he said.
“Without their own hard work and sacrifice, we would not be able to make it to the start date on time.”
Lt Cdr Wallington-Smith also praised the “incredible work” that went into turning HMS Trent “from sheets of steel to a fully operational warship”.
HMS Trent was built on the Clyde in Scotland by BAE Systems and delivered to the Royal Navy in December.
Since then she has been going through sea training and workouts to prepare her for her first deployment.
The new warship will train and patrol with Nato forces as part of Operation Sea Guardian, which seeks to deter international crime and terrorism.
Lt Cdr Wallington-Smith said: “The entire ship’s company have worked tirelessly in difficult circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic to prepare HMS Trent for this day.
“I could not be prouder of them and everyone within Portsmouth Naval Base and beyond who has helped us reach this point.”
About two-thirds of the 65 ratings and officers who make up HMS Trent’s ship’s company will crew the vessel at any one time.
Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineering) Gelder joined the Navy when he was just 16 and has already served on flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
He told the PA news agency that going from such a huge vessel to a “small” ship like HMS Trent will be a change, but he feels like “one of the family”.