HMS Lancaster on duty in Belizean waters

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A former British colony and crown colony, Belize maintains strong ties to the United Kingdom particularly in military matters. Ladyville is still home to a downsized British Army Training Support Unit (BATSUB) and British fighting men have used Belize as their base for jungle training. Ships of the British Royal Navy and Auxiliary Service have also paid visits to the country. The latest such visit took place on Monday when the Duke class Type 23 Frigate HMS Lancaster which is on active duty in the Caribbean on a counter-narcotics mission pulled into shore and a group of Belizeans climbed aboard for a tour. Lancaster is known as “The Queen’s Frigate” as one of the Queen’s many titles is Duke of Lancaster. We spoke to  Adrian Gubby, the ship’s weapons engineer officer, for more details.

Adrian Gubby – Lieutenant Commander:

vlcsnap-2013-09-25-08h47m07s73We left the UK in May.  We’ll be out here until the very end of November, the end of the hurricane season.  We’re here for three primary purposes: defense of overseas territories, counter narcotics, and also humanitarian disaster relief, in the unfortunate event that a hurricane comes through the Caribbean and damages any of the islands out here.  It’s hugely important because our overseas territories are still part of the United Kingdom and we want to reassure them that we’re here to help them.  While we’re here in Belize, it’s a Commonwealth nation, and we’re still greatly supportive of our Commonwealth friends out here, and we just want to make sure that you guys are OK.

 

vlcsnap-2013-09-25-08h57m42s17According to Lt. Com. Gubby, the ship’s main purpose these days is to fight narco-trafficking in the Caribbean.

Adrian Gubby – Lieutenant Commander:

We are a Frigate and our primary purpose is anti-submarine warfare. That’s what we are built for but these we are more used as a general purpose Frigate, so this year we are coming out to the northern Caribbean. In 2 years’ time the ship will come out and actually do the south Atlantic tasking as well. We have a lot of capabilities. As a warship we are built to do anything we possible can do around the world. Our primary purpose here is the 3 things I have mentioned earlier. The helicopter is very much used in counter narcotics. We can’t go as fast as the drugs runners can, however with the helicopter, you can do 150 knots. It can go much quicker than they can.

The ship hosts a 180-strong UK Ship Company and ten officers from the U.S. Coast Guard deployed for anti-trafficking duties. Its most recent activity was a 100-million British pound (BZ$316.49 million) bust of 22 bales of pure cocaine tossed out by a cornered group of smugglers in the Caribbean Sea. The drugs were recovered, the men arrested and the boat sunk by the ship.

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