UK — Gibraltar Squadron celebrates 25-year anniversary

The lit­tle-known Gibral­tar Squadron — the Roy­al Navy’s small­est, per­ma­nent, over­seas seago­ing unit — is cel­e­brat­ing its 25th anniver­sary.

 HMS Sabre of the Royal Navy's Gibraltar Squadron
HMS Sabre of the Roy­al Navy’s Gibral­tar Squadron
Source: PO(Phot) Paul A’Bar­row, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

When sailors on the Navy’s frigates and destroy­ers approach Gibral­tar, few of them are like­ly to see the lit­tle patrol boat sit­ting atten­tive­ly 100 yards (90m) astern or the rigid-hulled inflat­able boats (RHIBs) patrolling ahead. 

And many of these sailors may know lit­tle about the Roy­al Navy’s small­est, per­ma­nent, over­seas seago­ing unit. 

After the demise of the last RAF Marine Craft Unit (No 1102) in 1985, the Gibral­tar Squadron was formed. The two RAF launch­es, Her Majesty’s Air Force ves­sels Sun­der­land and Stir­ling, were then trans­ferred to the Roy­al Navy and renamed HM Ships Hart and Cormorant. 

These ves­sels con­tin­ued to serve in Gibral­tar, con­duct­ing an ever-increas­ing range of mar­itime task­ing, before being replaced in 1991 by two of the new P2000 Class patrol ves­sels, HM Ships Ranger and Trum­peter, which spent a fur­ther 12 years on the Rock. 

Fol­low­ing 9/11, a review of secu­ri­ty arrange­ments in Gibral­tar led to a fur­ther change in ves­sels with the squadron tak­ing the struc­ture we see today. 

With just 19 Roy­al Navy, Roy­al Marines and civil­ian per­son­nel, the squadron is now equipped with two fast patrol boats, HMS Scim­i­tar and HMS Sabre, sup­port­ed by three RHIBs. Scim­i­tar and Sabre have now been in Gibral­tar for near­ly eight years, after hav­ing been trans­ferred there from North­ern Ireland. 

The Gibral­tar Squadron is respon­si­ble for escort­ing Roy­al Navy ships from the lim­it of British Gibral­tar ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters until they enter the secu­ri­ty of the naval base. The squadron also con­ducts reg­u­lar patrols to deter unau­tho­rised access into these ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters and some­times to respond to such incursions. 

The squadron’s 25th anniver­sary was marked with a recep­tion and sun­set cer­e­mo­ny at the Tower. 

Dur­ing the recep­tion, Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Mau­rice Fitzger­ald, who was the first Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of the squadron in 1985, pro­posed a toast to the squadron and ordered ‘Up Spir­its’, invit­ing every­one to join him in the toast with a glass of tra­di­tion­al Navy rum. 

Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Matt Sykes, Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of HMS Scim­i­tar, said: 

“We are extreme­ly proud that the squadron has played such a key role in the waters around Gibral­tar for the last 25 years.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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