Queen gets the low-down on Hurricane Irma after HMS Sutherland arrives at Millwall from the Caribbean
- Credit: PA
The Queen was in east London today to hear first-hand about the Royal Navy’s relief operation in the aftermath of Caribbean Hurricane Irma.
She could not resist trying out a piece of a fireman’s safety equipment aboard HMS Sutherland which had arrived at Millwall Docks at the weekend.
The 91-year-old monarch was wrapped in a light turquoise warm winter coat against the chilly breeze sweeping the Thames and wearing a matching hat.
She led the royal party up the gangway from the quayside and onto the imposing warship, which is on a four-day visit to the Millwall Docks to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its commissioning.
The crew of a Wildcat helicopter described to the Queen the devastation they witnessed while in the West Indies last month, detailing their humanitarian relief work when they were deployed to the Caribbean separately from the Sutherland, as part of Operation Ruman.
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But the Queen then came across four of the frigate’s firefighters and could not resist pressing 21-year-old engineering technician Stanley Money’s fire horn worn on his shoulder.
Chief Petty Officer Peter Manning, 38, in charge of the fire crew, laughed with the royal visitor who prodded the horn, and then gave it a squeeze.
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He said later: “The Queen asked what it was for and I told her the crew sound it if they get into a distress situation during firefighting when it could be dark with smoke, to let other firefighters know they need help.”
The Queen was greeted aboard by its commanding officer, Comdr Andrew Canale, who served for several years as Her Majesty’s royal equerry.
The Sutherland looked an incongruous sight in the Millwall Docks surrounded by the Canary Wharf skyscrapers.
The Type 23 frigate has spent much of the past 12 months as the ‘fleet ready escort’ patrol ship, required to be at ‘high readiness’ for operational tasks in British home waters.
It recently completed a six-week operational work-up ready for deployment next year, then had the task of being the first escort for the Royal Navy’s largest-ever warship, the super aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth that set sail from Rosyth in June for its maiden sea trials.
Versatile frigates like the Sutherland were originally designed to deal with the Soviet submarine threat during the Cold War, but over the last 20 years have been dealing with other missions around the globe.
The Sutherland is usually at high readiness in Plymouth to defend Britain’s coastline and is often used to escort Russian and Chinese warships passing through territorial waters and the Channel.