The sailors of HMS Montrose, halfway across the Pacific Ocean during a global deployment, have finished off their Christmas celebrations with a short visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Easter Island.
Being away from loved ones over Christmas is always hard, however, the Ship’s Company made the best of the situation by enjoying the traditional events of the festive period, topped off with a once in a lifetime visit.
Celebrations began on Christmas Eve with a nativity play on the Flight Deck, with sailors dressing up to act out the roles of Mary, Baby Jesus, the Wise Men and others who star in the Christmas story.
The Ship’s Chaplain, the Revd Peter Dixon RN, held a Midnight Service, 4 hours behind the UK, reflecting
“For many of us, this was our first Christmas away from home, let alone our first Christmas on board a warship, but in the retelling of the Nativity and the singing of carols, the spirit of Christmas flowed in abundance. As Christmas Day dawned, many gathered on the flight deck in festive attire for a unique Christmas service with the sun beating down and the Pacific swell rolling us from side to side.”
On Christmas Day itself, by military tradition, the Officers serve all other personnel onboard, manning the serving counters and dining halls as a full three course Christmas dinner was laid on, with the Captain and Executive Officer carving the joints. Having enjoyed dinner with their mess-mates, everyone spent the afternoon and evening opening presents, whether from home or from the numerous departmental and mess-based Secret Santas, ringing home or relaxing in the sun of the South Pacific.
Just after Christmas Day, HMS Montrose anchored off Easter Island in the Pacific. Everyone onboard got the chance to go ashore to see first the ancient statues, known as Moai, at Ahu Tongariki, then the quarry from which the stone came at Rano Raraku, before having a chance to relax at the sandy beach of Anakena and enjoy a Christmas BBQ, made possible thanks to a generous grant by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.
Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineering) Oli Dymott said
“This was truly an amazing unique time and one of those Christmases I will remember for the rest of my life”, adding “It was definitely a career-defining experience”
Following the brief stop in Easter Island, HMS Montrose continues west across the Pacific. Commanding Officer Conor O’Neill said of the experience:
“This is already a deployment of ‘firsts’ and incredible experiences for junior and senior sailors alike – crossing their first ocean when we traversed the Atlantic, transiting the Panama Canal, and now as part of our Pacific voyage we all get to enjoy a truly once in a career opportunity to visit the ancient civilisation of Easter Island.”
“We know that our families are working hard at home keeping things going whilst we are away, and we are all grateful for the support they and our friends give us, especially during the festive period. I’m also very grateful to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and Greenwich Hospital for their support to the visit – it has made our deployed Christmas very special”.