Military Movements Review: August

YGTV’s article series continues - each month, David Sanchez will review military visits to the Rock. Drawing on his in-depth knowledge and photographic skills, the articles will provide readers with valuable background facts to the aircraft and vessels that pop into the Rock.

By David Michael Sanchez

Midsummer is traditionally the quietest time of the military calendar both locally and abroad for a variety of reasons. However, the month that saw the departure of the Grace 1 from our waters saw the ripples of events in the Persian Gulf felt locally, ensuring that August was far from the inactive month it usually is here.

It was an all-British affair both in the air and at sea this time round. Four Royal Navy warships called during August with the arrival of HMS Echo initiating proceedings when she secured alongside the Tower on the 1st of the month at the end of her long survey of BGTW. The hydrographic survey vessel plying her course off the Eastern Side became a familiar sight to beach going enthusiasts and she was sorely missed on departure.

A two-week hiatus then ensued before defence affairs social media accounts began speculating that the news broken by official Royal Navy sources that HM Ships Kent and Defender would soon be deploying from the UK would mean that these vessels would be deployed to the Persian Gulf. Locally this caused a minor ripple of cautious expectation among seasoned enthusiasts who have long felt the bitter feeling of a ‘no show’ only to see a Royal Navy warship pass us by.

This patience was rewarded on the 16th when both the Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and the Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender called in to port on the same morning. The relatively rare sight of a frigate/destroyer combination coinciding on the Rock produced a great number of high quality images as many soaked up this stirring sight.

Eagle-eyed spotters then located HMS Enterprise off the Eastern Side on the 18th. A sister ship to the now very familiar Echo, her commanding officer is a Gibraltarian, Commander Cecil Ladislaus RN. All fervently hoped that this would herald a visit by the hydrographic survey vessel and the very next day Enterprise emulated her sister and entered the Naval Base.

In the air it was more of the same with A400 ZM419 calling on the 12th and C130 Hercules ZH889 arriving on the 14th carrying personnel for Exercise Barbary Sun. The 18th saw another twin visit with A400 ZM413 landing the same day as ZH889 on her second visit of the month.

Breaking the transport aircraft monotony for aviation enthusiasts was Westland Wildcat ZZ529 off HMS Defender which landed at RAF Gibraltar on the 19th as the destroyer departed the Naval Base on a ‘Far East deployment’ which saw her diverted to the Persian Gulf to join HMS Kent, something that surprised absolutely nobody!

I feel that it is entirely fitting to give the Commanding Officer of HMS Enterprise, Cecil Ladislaus, a special mention. It is a point of extreme pride that one of our own has done so well in the Royal Navy and gone on to command a complex and vital unit in the fleet’s inventory. I do recommend giving a follow to their award-winning and highly engaging twitter handle, @HMSEnterprise for regular updates, facts and fantastic humour from this excellent vessel.

As we turn now to the final third of what is proving to be an interesting year for our military base, my one hope is that the locally popular and very much missed Battle of Britain flypast makes a return. Since it was stopped for whatever reason a few years ago (as I have said before, theories range from the fiscal to the darkly political) many locals saw this as our only chance to see a (semi) fast jet at RAF Gibraltar given that the usual aircraft sent for this event were a pair of Hawks. I do hope that this event returns for the simple reason that impressive and welcome as transport aircraft are, the thrilling sight of a ‘fast mover’ is close to unbeatable as a spectacle. It really is the small things that raise morale at times!

Either way, whatever September brings, whether it proves to be an Indian summer or if the visits drop like autumn leaves, I will as always be here to talk you through it all. Finally I would like to wish my readers a very happy and healthy National Day!

David Sanchez is a local military enthusiast and photographer with a degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies.