The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon has been alongside in Simon’s Town since last Friday on an informal visit as part of her Atlantic south patrol tasking.
Ships and units of the British armed forces on this tasking provide ongoing protection and reassurance to British interests in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Prior to steaming into Simon’s town the Type 45 air defence destroyer called at Tristan da Cunha, one of the most remote islands on the planet. There is no land to the west for more than 2,000 miles, South Africa is 1,750 miles to the east and the nearest inhabited locality is another British Overseas Territory 1,510 miles away.
With no airfield, the volcanic isle which is home to 257 British citizens – almost all of them resident in the capital, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas – can only be reached by sea. The last RN warship, Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond, to call on Tristan anchored off the island in November 2013.
HMS Dragon is under the command of Captain Rex Cox and is the fourth of the RN’s six type 45 air defence destroyers. She was launched in November 2008 and after successful firing of the Sea Viper and intensive at-sea training was deployed on her maiden voyage in March 2013 to the Gulf region.
As with others in the Type 45 Class, Dragon is 152 metres long, has a beam length of 21.2 metres and displaces 8,000 tons.
While Dragon’s stop in South Africa is an informal one, a certain amount of maintenance will be done and the 190 strong crew will enjoy a rest and recuperation period. The ship’s Lynx maritime helicopter has already been seen in the air around Simon’s Town.
According to the South African Navy, Dragon will depart Simon’s town harbour on February 27 and sail to Cape Town. She is scheduled to leave South African shores on March 9.
Dragon is being accompanied by the Royal Auxiliary Fleet (RFA) Gold Rover small tanker. She is also undergoing repairs and replenishment and her 56 strong crew will have a chance to enjoy some rest and recuperation. RFA Gold Rover and her sister ship Black Rover are the only survivors of five in their class, with the others having been phased out in favour of double hulled vessels.
Gold Rover sailed from Plymouth on September 26 last year for her final deployment in the South Atlantic.
Picture: Doug Drysdale