Top of the Rock performance from Gibraltar's naval guardians

The waters of the Rock are in very safe hands after its Royal Navy guardians received a big thumbs up during their annual assessment.

Top of the Rock performance from Gibraltar’s naval guardiansExperts spent a week putting the sailors of the Gibraltar Squadron through the mill before passing judgment on the 26 sailors and Royal Marines.

Based in a newish complex opposite The Tower in the historic naval base, the squadron operates two fast patrol boats – HMS Sabre and Scimitar, now the smallest vessels under the White Ensign in the RN with the decommissioning of HMS Gleaner – plus several RIBs.

Their job is to safeguard visiting British and allied warships, patrol UK territorial waters and challenge any unlawful incursions – all of which makes the squadron one of the busiest units in the Navy, in action daily.

That doesn’t mean they can escape the scrutiny of the RN’s principal assessors from the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation.

The FOST staff ensure every vessel in the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary is fit to perform front-line duties wherever they go in the world, from providing two-month bespoke training packages for capital ships such as HMS Albion and Queen Elizabeth, six to eight weeks for destroyers and frigates, four or five for minehunters and survey ships and a few days for small craft like P2000s and the Gibraltar Squadron.

The benefits of this realistic training speak for themselves and I was extremely proud to see us come away with some very high scores and positive feedback from the FOSTies

Lt Tom Loxton, HMS Scimitar’s Commanding Officer

While the UK has been hit twice by ‘beasts from the east’ over the past month, Gibraltar too has been suffering unseasonal weather: high winds and rainstorms, enough to trigger rockfalls and cause damage to buildings and scaffolding.

It wasn’t enough to deter the FOSTies who flew out from Plymouth to put the squadron through its paces… at the same time as expecting it to perform its day job of territorial patrols.

They took Sabre and Scimitar to sea in a series of exercises which tested crews’ response to any and all emergencies – the first time some of the ship’s company had gone through the FOST experience.

“With the staff on board my team were able to concentrate on dealing with emergencies as they arose and really throw themselves into the scenario,” said Scimitar’s Commanding Officer (CO) Lt Tom Loxton.

“The benefits of this realistic training speak for themselves and I was extremely proud to see us come away with some very high scores and positive feedback from the FOSTies.”

Although the two craft were not graded against each other, only on individual performance, there was still a natural level of friendly competition between Scimitar, Sabre and the HQ staff. That competition ensured all passed with a grade of ‘very satisfactory’ (‘satisfactory’ is a standard pass).

The squadron’s CO Lt Cdr James Myhill said that the favourable assessment was the result of weeks of training and planning.

“I was particularly impressed by members of the squadron who have only been with us for a short period or indeed, have only been in the Navy for a short time,” he added,

“Everyone stepped up to the mark to demonstrate to FOST that the RN Gibraltar Squadron remains an effective and capable team, delivering success on operations down here in the Mediterranean.

“The training package delivered by FOST applies pressure to individuals and to units, testing their materiel and administrative readiness as well as their ability to fight, and keep fighting when things go wrong.”