HMS Dauntless made for a stunning sight off Cape Town as she paid her first visit to South Africa.
The latest stage of the £1bn destroyer’s maiden deployment took her to the Cape, bringing the curtain down on a three-month African odyssey for the Portsmouth-based warship.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Nicky Wilson, HMS Dauntless
TAKE one iconic warship and one iconic backdrop.
This is HMS Dauntless – the first of the nation’s Type 45 destroyers to visit South Africa, represented here by Cape Town and the always-impressive sight of Table Mountain.
The Portsmouth-based warship has spent three weeks on the Cape, allowing the ship’s company to “let off steam” with their first extended break since sailing back in April.
It also allowed the ship’s 815 NAS Lynx Flight to decamp to Ysterplaat (pronounced ace-ter-plart) airbase to allow it to work with the South Africans, who also fly the agile helicopter.
And it allowed engineers to overhaul and tweak Dauntless’ machinery after the exertions of the 8,000-mile journey to the foot of Africa – and ready the Type 45 for the lumpy weather she’s likely to face in the South Atlantic, where it’s now mid-winter.
“We arrived in Cape Town with great anticipation – it was a glorious morning with the awesome sight of the iconic Table Mountain emerging from the morning haze,” said Lt Tom Rowley, Dauntless’ air warfare officer.
Once alongside, Dauntless did what she has done throughout her Auriga 12 deployment: fly the flag for the best of British courtesy of an official reception – which took place in a torrential downpour.
Dauntless' sailors help out at Nazareth House children's home
Such receptions are a key part of spreading the RN’s global ‘force for good’ message, as is the willingness to get stuck in with charity projects wherever a British warship visits.
It’s been a key feature of Dauntless’ African odyssey and Cape Town was no different as sailors carried out painting and decorating at the Nazareth House children’s home; some of the youngsters were terminally ill but had been abandoned by their families and left homeless.
“It was lovely to see how the staff showed compassion and love to these children who had absolutely nothing left,” said AB(CIS) Hannah Widders, who was deeply moved by the time she spent at the home.
LS(Sea) Scotty Gratton enters shark-infested waters for the experience of a lifetime
Around one fifth of the ship’s company went in search of Jaws – for the waters off the Cape are (in)famous for the great white shark population.
LS(Sea) Scotty Gratton braved the waters in a shark cage to get up close (but not too personal) with the leviathans. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little boy and it didn’t disappoint.
“You can’t really realise the scale until you see them from that perspective – it’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
Lordy, don't fancy Jaws much...
Cape Town marked roughly the half-way point in Dauntless’ inaugural deployment and the end of her African adventure. On her way south from Portsmouth, D33 visited countries used to hosting RN vessels, such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana, and ones which rarely see the White Ensign fluttering in their harbours: Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Angola.
Dauntless’ time in African waters has had a twofold aim: to promote maritime security, especially in the troubled waters of the Gulf of Guinea, an area which has seen many incidences of criminal activity at sea in recent years; and to fly the flag for the UK, showcasing the RN, British industry, sport and culture.
In Luanda, Dauntless did both. The destroyer provided the impressive venue for a security conference held by the globally-respected think-tank Chatham House.
Dauntless' hangar is packed for the Chatham House think-tank's conference aboard the ship in Luanda
“Opportunities like this are few and far between and the ability to get some of the key decision makers and people of influence together to discuss a common problem can never be underestimated,” said Dauntless’ Commanding Officer Capt Will Warrender.
“I hope in the long run it will be of immense strategic value to the wider region as a whole.
“One of the major reasons for our deployment here has been to promote the awareness of maritime security issues in the region; conferences like this definitely reinforce the points we have been making over our previous visits to ports throughout the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa.”