HMS Westminster moves into Top Gear for documentary
Top Gear legend Jeremy Clarkson has spent a day filming on board HMS Westminster – with the Royal Navy giving him a taste of their own high-speed manoeuvres.
The TV presenter joined the frigate off the coast of Norway as part of a documentary on the Arctic Convoys in which around 3,000 sailors and merchant seamen were killed delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945.
Jeremy flew on board the Portsmouth-based ship Westminster near Stavanger by the ship’s Lynx helicopter – which he was quite taken with and had it pegged for top spot on the Top Gear ‘cool wall’.
His film crew had already sailed from the UK with the frigate to capture three days of scenes including day and night flying, day and night live firings, torpedo-loading drills and the ship conducting torpedo counter-measures. They also mocked up a main machinery space fire to emulate a torpedo hit – all helping to show how today’s Royal Navy might deal with the threats the men of WW2 faced on the convoys.
They were a mission that helped tip the balance against the Nazis, with Churchill acknowledging it was “the worst journey in the world”. At the end of last year Prime Minister David Cameron announced a campaign medal would be cast to honour the sacrifices made on the Arctic runs.
The Top Gear presenter got a feel for the dreadful weather conditions the Arctic heroes faced with sub-zero temperatures, Sea State 8 (waves of 9m – 30ft and more) and biting winds of up to 60mph. The ship also conducted high-speed manoeuvres simulating the counter-measures of 1940.
Impressed by HMS Westminster’s operations room, Jeremy remembered the ship’s starring role in the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies – and needed no encouragement to take the captain’s chair for some scenes for the documentary, which is due to air in the summer or autumn.
On returning to the UK the presenter was quick to post a shot on Twitter – describing sailing up the fjords on a Type 23 as “the best way to arrive in Norway”.
Jeremy’s producer Dan Trelford said the filming aboard the frigate had gone extremely well. “The HMS Westminster guys were fantastic. It couldn’t have been better – Jeremy was very impressed with the ship and her crew,” he added.
With the film crew gone, Westminster resumed her duties as the UK’s foremost submarine hunter, acting as an aggressive target for the submarine captains undergoing the International Submarine Commanders’ Course – also known as ‘the Perisher’.
The grim weather conditions didn’t let up for the frigate – she faced almost zero visibility in the middle of the night due to the weather conditions while conducting high-speed runs directly at the submarine without using instruments and replying purely on sight. “This was a series of laps even the Stig would have struggled with,” Lieutenant Commander Mickey Rooney, Westminster’s weapon engineering officer added.