Royal Navy River-class offshore patrol vessel HMS Tamar joined the Bangladeshi Navy for joint training in the Bay of Bengal, cementing relations between the two countries after a week-long visit. The patrol vessel became the second Royal Navy warship in 16 months to foster naval, political and economic ties after frigate HMS Kent visited the Commonwealth nation in 2021. The welcome set the stage for a series of discussions, combined training and cultural exchanges with the emphasis on underlining the UK’s commitment to Bangladesh. HMS Tamar made the same journey up the River Karnaphuli leading into Chittagong, where crews of Bangladeshi warships and Coast Guard vessels lined the sides of ships and cheered Tamar into port, where a band, 50-strong reception committee and a bouquet of flowers awaited Commanding Officer Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith.
Tamar hosted the British High Commissioner Robert Dickson and his deputy Javed Patel plus Bangladeshi civic and military leaders for a demonstration of what the ship – and her four sisters – can do, plus traditional Ceremonial Sunset. Tamar’s marine engineers conducted damage control training, and highlighted their ship’s ‘green’ features which make the ship the greenest in the Fleet – of particular interest as Bangladesh is frequently the victim of the effects of climate change. That was reinforced by a comprehensive tour of Tamar for Bangladeshi sailors who are keen to learn about the role and capabilities of the relatively new River-class vessels. Divers from the Royal Navy’s specialist Diving and Threat Exploitation Group flew out from the UK to conduct joint training with their Bangladeshi counterparts.
“From the moment we arrived, we have been hosted exceptionally. The Bangladeshi Navy have been very eager to exchange knowledge and understand the way we operate our Offshore Patrol Vessels. The visit has made clear the strategic importance of Bangladesh. Its Navy approaches interaction with the UK with a great sense of reverence, and they celebrate unanimously that their doctrine and policies are aligned to our own,” Commander Elliot-Smith said.
“It must have been so difficult, for those here fighting and the loved ones at home. Whilst Europe celebrated victory, mothers worried sick for sons far away, and soldiers fought some of the hardest battles of the war,” said Seaman Specialist Sean Brown, who was moved by the number of deaths after May 1945 among the 731 graves – including over 200 from pre-independence India (which included Bangladesh).
On a solemn note, both navies honoured victims of the ‘forgotten war’, the campaign in Burma in World War 2, who are buried in Chittagong Commonwealth War Cemetery. Before departing Chittagong, the Brits were invited to a cultural evening laid on by their hosts, celebrating 50 years of Bangladeshi independence, links with Britain and her Navy. Those links were reinforced with a combined sweep through the northern Bay of Bengal when Tamar sailed with Bangladeshi patrol craft BNS Durjoy and Nirmal. Sailors traded places to experience life at sea with the two navies, as the three ships conducted a series of manoeuvres and exercises in close company before Tamar continued south on the next leg of her Indian Ocean patrol. With her sister HMS Spey the ship is on a five-year mission to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, with Tamar focusing her efforts over the winter/early spring of 2023 in the Indian Ocean.