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Back in Black (Sea) as Duncan trains with Romanian and Bulgarian ships
20 November 2015

Britain's newest warship became the first major UK military vessel in the Black Sea for seven years when she spent a week with the Romanian and Bulgarian Navies.

Fresh from operations in the Gulf supporting air strikes against the forces of ISIL, HMS Duncan sailed through the Bosphorus to work with NATO allies – and celebrate the 150th birthday of football in Romania.

HMS Duncan is sandwiched between the Regina Maria (formerly HMS London) and the missile boat Zborul during joint exercises in the Black Sea off Constanta. Pictures: Cristian Vlasceanu, Romanian Navy, and British Embassy, Bucharest

BRITAIN’S newest warship became the first major UK military vessel in the Black Sea for seven years when she spent a week with the Romanian and Bulgarian Navies.

Fresh from operations in the Gulf supporting air strikes against the forces of ISIL, HMS Duncan sailed through the Bosphorus to work with NATO allies – and celebrate the 150th birthday of football in Romania.

Operating off Burgas in Bulgaria and Constanța around 150 miles up the west coast of the Black Sea in neighbouring Romania, the destroyer carried out training manoeuvres with the two Romanian and Bulgarian Navies and hosted senior visitors to showcase what a Type 45 air defence ship can do and describe recent operational experiences in the Middle East.

This is the first visit to the Black Sea by a major Royal Navy warship in seven years and provided the opportunity for sailors to train together, practicing NATO procedures for cooperating on various security missions at sea.

A Romanian Puma helicopter on the deck of the Regina Maria with HMS Duncan in the distance

Around 350 Romanian sailors – including those aboard the former British frigate HMS London, now the Regina Maria under the blue, yellow and red tricolour – plus MiG-21 Lancer fighters from the Romanian Air Force joined Duncan for two days of combined exercises off Constanța, including mock air attacks and coping with minefields.

When alongside in Constanța, Duncan – which is affiliated with the city of Dundee, hometown of her namesake Admiral Adam Duncan – hosted an event for companies to showcase British technology from computer-simulated training to coastguard vessels.

The event and a comprehensive tour of the destroyer were attended by senior Romanian officers including the Chief of Defence, the Heads of the Romanian Navy, Coastguard and other military colleagues.

Duncan’s football team was invited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of football being introduced to Romania – sailors from the gunboat HMS Cockatrice played a game against locals from Sulina in the Danube delta.

The Romanian Puma is guided down on to Duncan's flight deck

The milestone was marked with a competition between British, Romanian, American and Bulgarian servicemen, featured on national TV, with HMS Duncan losing out to the Bulgarian Navy in the final.

In Bulgaria, the Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev travelled from the capital Sofia to thank the UK for showing the importance placed on working with NATO allies.

With senior Bulgarian officers, the minister was treated to various demonstrations by Duncan’s sailors and Royal Marines, before the destroyer joined Bulgarian Navy minesweepers, which led the British warship through a simulated minefield.

“Visits like this not only provide the opportunity for our Navies to work together but also give crew members the chance to get to know their counterparts from the Bulgarian Navy better and to enjoy events such as a football match played between teams from HMS Duncan and the Burgas Naval Base,” said Emma Hopkins, Britain’s Ambassador to Sofia.

Senior Romanian officers tour Duncan's operations room

After eight months east of Suez – with temperatures in some compartments on board the 7,500-tonne warship above 50˚C – the mild autumn temperatures of the Black Sea (high teens) were a welcome respite as Duncan prepares to return home to families and friends.

“I was proud to come to the Black Sea to work with NATO allies and share experiences of their security work in the region and our recent efforts maintaining freedom of navigation in the Gulf,” said Commander Rich Atkinson, Duncan’s Commanding Officer.

“While I am immensely proud of HMS Duncan – one of the most modern and capable air defence warships in the world – it was quite humbling to find that 150 years ago other Royal Navy ships were here playing the first football match in Romania.

“Some things never change, so after playing football matches against local navy teams, my sailors and marines also enjoyed two cracking visits to these popular seaside towns.

“After these wonderful visits and eight long months away from home, we are now looking forward to our return home to Portsmouth.”