The Cape Field Artillery (CFA) Pipes and Drums can boast a South African first after piping the Royal Navy (RN) Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll to sea following a visit by the warship to Simon’s Town last month.
The ship docked in the SA Navy’s home port for a scheduled two week repair and maintenance session with no indication of what was to come.
Contact was initially made via the Caledonian Society when its chief Stuart Munro approached CFA Pipe Major Andrew Imrie. He had been asked the British High Commission in Pretoria to “try and find some pipers” to pipe guests aboard Argyll for a cocktail function.
“Planning began and CFA’s pipes and drums mini-band arrived at the SA Naval dockyard and after a quick warm-up started performing at the bottom of the ship’s prow. Once all VIPs had been piped on board the mini-band was invited aboard to perform on the flight deck.
“Apart from having had the honour of piping guests aboard and playing for them this was not to be CFA’s last encounter with HMS Argyll. That happened when the captain requested us to pipe the ship out to sea on the final four month leg of her seven month deployment.
“The big day arrived and the band went aboard, with the first order of the day a formal photograph of the whole ship’s company, the Pipes and Drums and other guests. This was followed by a tour of the ship and an exchange of ship’s and regimental crests in the wardroom.
“The band then bade the traditional matelots’ farewell of ‘fine winds and fair sailing’ before heading for the end of the pier at Oscar outer where they struck up with Highland Cathedral. This was the same tune HMS Argyll was piped out of Plymouth harbour when she started her deployment,” Imrie said.
Following the pair of piping events, the CFA pipe major went researching and established that apart from “being a rare privilege,” Navy sources confirmed no pipe band has ever piped a warship out to sea in South Africa before.
“The piping out privilege is usually reserved for the Navy band and the CFA Pipes and Drums are proud to have been honoured in this special way.”
Adding to the historic value of the piping ceremony is that Argyll’s home port is Plymouth, home to CFA’s sister regiment, 29 Commando Royal Artillery.