HMS Dragon plays cat and mouse with South Africa submarine

HMS Dragon played a three-day game of cat and mouse with a South African submarine – one of the highlights of her visit to Cape Town on the latest stage of her Atlantic/Pacific odyssey.

After a mid-deployment break around the Cape of Good Hope in Simon’s Town Naval Base, the Portsmouth-based destroyer and tanker RFA Gold Rover resumed duties with a visit to nearby Cape Town – a mixture of formal training with the South African Navy and flag-flying for the UK.

Dragon is only the second of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers to visit the Cape (her older sister Dauntless led the way a couple of years ago) and the ship was granted a plum berth in the city’s world-famous Victoria and Albert Waterfront in the shadow of Table Mountain.

The destroyer hosted an official reception for 350 people, tours for interested groups and youngsters such as the International School of Cape Town, served as a showcase for British industry as part of the ‘Great’ Britain campaign , opened the gangway to 2,500 visitors in just six hours, and were generally all-round good eggs for UK plc.

Dragon was a real attraction whilst alongside in Cape Town

Lt Cdr Josh Reilly

One walker who’d injured his leg climbing Table Mountain found. He was stuck about 300 metres up the iconic peak, unable to make his way down.

Luckily a team from the ship was also hiking up the mountain, found the walker, and gave him a piggy back down to safety.

“Dragon was a real attraction whilst alongside in Cape Town and I was taken aback by how many people came on board,” said Lt Cdr Josh Reilly, an Australian exchange officer serving on the destroyer.

“The South Africans seem genuinely impressed with the Type 45 and the questions were coming in thick and fast on the tours that I led around.”

Able Seaman (Communications and Information Systems) Amy Dixon joined the ship in Cape Town: “What a great place to join! The official visit to Cape Town was a highlight and you cannot get better than a spot alongside in the Victoria and Albert Waterfront.

“With beaches, mountains and sharks all around there was certainly plenty to do and it was an awesome night out.”

Duties in Cape Town done, Dragon and Gold Rover knuckled down to some anti-submarine warfare – a bit of a novelty as the destroyer is built to down enemy aircraft and missiles and the tanker is built to refuel Royal Navy ships.

So it was left to the destroyer’s bow sonar and Lynx helicopter to find the diesel submarine SAS Manthatisi, which was testing the ability of budding submarine commanders.

“I’ve worked in the operations room with submarines before on exercises, but to do it with the South African Navy is something else,” said Able Seaman (Warfare Specialist) Lewis ‘Buck’ Taylor.

“It was a hard couple of days trying to find the submarine, but I know all the room team – and especially the underwater warfare – guys learned a lot from it.”

And when the hunt relaxed, there was time for the ship’s ten-strong Welsh contingent (aka ‘The Taffia’) to celebrate the land of their fathers by unfurling a large flag of Wales on St David’s Day on the forecastle as Dragon punched through the South Atlantic.

“Everyone has been getting stuck in over the past few weeks and Team Dragon continue to impress all they meet thanks to their can-do attitude and enthusiasm,” said the ship’s Commanding Officer Captain Rex Cox.

“We are now heading north – and making our way home – but we still have an exciting programme in West Africa to complete first.”