All aboard the warship that'll make you Sicker

New Royal Navy vessel's official motto is somewhat stomach-churning

HMS Forth being lowered into the Clyde. Pic: BAE Systems
HMS Forth, lead ship of the Batch 2 River-class OPVs (Pic: BAE Systems)

The Royal Navy will receive two more River-class offshore patrol vessels – and the motto of one appears to encourage her crew to vomit everywhere.

HMS Tamar and HMS Spey were ordered from BAE Systems today as the Ministry of Defence signed the contract for the two ships, with Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin pressing the official button to start cutting the first steel.

Both were ordered to take up the slack in naval shipbuilding between now and the eventual start of the construction of the Type 26 frigate. The two new ships, along with the support package for the full class of five vessels, are costing the nation £287m in total.

The Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) are slightly larger than the currently serving River-class ships, being capable of carrying a helicopter on an open flight deck over the stern. The three Batch 1 River-class OPVs will almost certainly be sold off to a foreign buyer.

Current plans are for the first steel on the Type 26 project to be cut by mid-2017, though the government has not yet signed any contracts for that.

Spey’s official motto is “Mack Sicker.” This appears to be a mangled transliteration from Scots Gaelic of the motto of the Kirkpatrick Clan, “I’ll mak siccar.” The story goes that in the year 1306, Sir Roger Kirkpatrick was a retainer of Robert the Bruce. Robert got into a fight with one John Comyn during talks between the two about a plot to usurp the Scottish throne. After having realised that Comyn was loyal to the sitting monarch, the Bruce stabbed him before running out of the church where they had met, shouting that he thought he had killed Comyn.

Kirkpatrick, so the story goes, drew his dagger and said “I’ll mak siccar.” (I’ll make sure).

The phrase was memorably used by Alistair MacLean in his classic Second World War historical fiction novel Where Eagles Dare, during the climactic fight scene on top of an Alpine cable car some thousands of feet above a deep valley. MacLean’s protagonist, Major John Smith, who had been shot and wounded while on the roof of the cable car, was trying desperately to evade the Schmeisser-wielding double-crossing British spy Carraciola inside the cable car, who, as MacLean wrote, had climbed out and was “coming to mak’ siccar.”

Previous British warships called Spey have used the phrase as their motto, including the River-class frigate of the Second World War, of which a potted service history can be read here. As only the second ship of the RN to carry the name Spey, it seems likely that her wartime crew foisted the misspelled motto on the ship.

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesman seemed as confused as El Reg when we rang up to ask about the motto. We look forward to hearing from them in due course. ®

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