HMS Brocklesby – crewed by sailors from Portsmouth’s 2nd Mine Countermeasures Squadron – and HMS Shoreham – from the 1st Squadron, based in Faslane – spent two days working with Gulf state’s navy, making a welcome change from their normal mine warfare patrols and training.
Beyond keeping the crucial sea lanes of the Gulf region open and free of any underwater explosive devices, Britain’s four minehunters stationed in Bahrain – HMS Blyth and Ledbury complete the quartet – have a wider duty to foster close relations with other navies in the Middle East to ensure the ongoing safety, security and prosperity of this crucial part of the world and generally fly the flag for UK plc.
The Qataris operate a Fleet of around half a dozen missile-armed fast attack craft plus more than 60 patrol boats focused on guarding its 350 miles of coastline, territorial waters and the many oil platforms offshore.
Brocklesby and Shoreham sailed into the Qatari base in Doha for some harbour training and tours, before sailors from both navies traded places and four Qatari patrol ships led the Britons out of harbour for Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres – synchronised, choreographed movements by several warship operating in close proximity.
“The Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres were a particular highlight in some fantastic conditions,” said Lieutenant Matthew Burton, HMS Brocklesby’s Gunnery Officer.
His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Chris Hollingworth, added: “We’ve had an exceptional visit to Qatar, being able to work with our regional partners has been a real highlight and I look forward to working together in the near future.”
There was also time for sailors from both British ships to go ashore and see the cultural side of Qatar.
“Experiencing the Souq Waqif and seeing some of the local produce was amazing. I particularly liked seeing the extensive work going on for the 2022 World Cup, I just hope England are there!” said Leading Seaman Billy Furnell, one of Brocklesby’s mine warfare specialist.