Smallest ships in Navy’s fleet recognised with top award

The smallest ships in the Navy’s fleet have won a top award for punching above their weight in the UK and overseas.

The 14 vessels that make up the First Patrol Boat Squadron have received the Firmin Sword of Peace – a prize given to British armed forces units for activities beyond their normal role. 

It was the squadron’s work during a demanding 2012 that earned the award. HMS Example, Explorer, Ranger and Trumpeter excelled during a summer deployment to the Baltic – the longest operation to date by such vessels – and Ranger and Trumpeter also provided an Honour Guard for the Queen’s diamond jubilee pageant on the Thames. 

And to round of an unprecedented year, six ships provided security for the Olympics and Paralympics in London and Weymouth – HMS Puncher, Blazer, Express, Tracker, Raider and Exploit.

The squadron has worked extremely hard and are worthy winners of the award.

Tony Kelly, sales manager of award sponsor Firmin House

The tasks were carried out in addition to the squadron’s traditional role of providing sea training to a wide spectrum of high-calibre undergraduates. 

The citation says: “The overseas deployment reawakened historic ties with Baltic ports, in some cases not visited by the RN since the Second World War, and provided a diplomatic presence in Germany, Poland, Russia and the Baltic states. 

"In all the 20-metre ships visited 33 ports in 11 countries and steamed 4,300 nautical miles in 42 days.” 

It adds: “Never before attempted, the squadron assumed responsibility from the Household Cavalry for guarding the monarch throughout the period she was afloat on the Thames, and delivered a subtle and understated defensive cordon around the Royal Family while also assisting the myriad of man-powered vessels struggling in the challenging conditions. 

“The smallest ships in the fleet have reached a global audience and by initiating, developing and fostering links with communities the length and breadth of the UK and northern Europe, they have raised the profile and demonstrated the standards and values of the RN and UK wherever they have gone.

“For exemplary regional, national and international engagement at the civil, military and political level, punching far above their weight, the ships and people of the squadron are worthy recipients of the Firmin Sword of Peace.” 

The award was presented by First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, to Lieutenant Simon Shaw - Commanding Officer of HMS Exploit during 2012 - on board HMS Exploit at Portsmouth Naval Base. 

Tony Kelly, sales manager of award sponsor Firmin House, which makes military ceremonial uniforms, said: “The squadron has worked extremely hard and are worthy winners of the award. For security reasons sometimes their work has to be low profile, but it is good to see them being recognised in this way.”

The squadron last won the award in 1997.