Minehunters Begin 6,000-Mile Odyssey on Latest Gulf Mission
(Source: Royal Navy; issued June 10, 2020)
Beginning a 6,000-mile odyssey which will take their ships to the Gulf for three years are the crews of minehunters HMS Penzance and Chiddingfold.

The latter sailed from Portsmouth today to begin the epic journey to Bahrain, a journey she will share with Penzance which departed her base at Faslane at the end of last week and, after a brief fuel stop in Falmouth, before linking up with Chid in the Atlantic.

It’s the second time the two vessels have sailed in company to the Middle East for a three-year tour of duty, having last made the extended trip between 2014 and 2017.

Heading back to the UK, mission accomplished, once Penzance and Chiddingfold arrive, are their sister ships HMS Blyth and Ledbury.

The Royal Navy has maintained a four-strong minehunting force – bolstered by a dedicated battle staff and mother ship, currently RFA Cardigan Bay – for more than a decade.

Together, they keep the sea lanes open, deter aggression, work with allies and fly the flag for the UK in a part of the world which is key to the nation’s security and economy.

The two Gulf-bound ships are the first to switch over to a new crew rotational system – four months aboard instead of six, followed by four months back in the UK on leave/undergoing training, courses, education and the like.

The programme is intended to give sailors – 51 on Chid, 40 on Penzance – a more settled life, while getting the maximum out of their vessels on operations in theatre.

“We are the first crews in this new programme – and we’re determined to make it a success. Many sailors are pleased to have increased stability in their lives,” said HMS Chiddingfold’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Tom Harrison.

The global Covid-19 pandemic reduced the scale of the traditional send-off from families and friends – the usual pre-deployment look around the vessel was, in Chiddingfold’s case, replaced by a social-distanced wave from Portsmouth’s Hot Walls – and will limit/restrict the ten or so port visits on the journey out.

That aside the crews are keen to knuckle down to their mission.

“This will be my first deployment and I’m very much looking forward to putting into practice on operations what I have learned over the last year,” said Able Seaman Connor Hurst, one of Penzance’s mine warfare specialists.

“Minehunters have a long history of delivering success in the region and I look forward to becoming part of that.”

Lieutenant Commander Harrison, 32, from Exeter, said that his team had worked “incredibly hard to get to this stage – it’s been a long run-up to deployment. Now the ship’s company are excited and I am hugely confident they will continue to perform to a high standard, particularly with the introduction of four-month deployments.”

His counterpart on Penzance, Lieutenant Commander Graeme Hazelwood, agrees. “It has been a team effort across the enterprise and one made all the more challenging during the current coronavirus crisis,” he added.

“I feel incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication that the crew and all the support organisations in Faslane have shown in getting Penzance ready to deploy.”

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Frigate HMS Montrose Resumes Long-Term Gulf Security Mission
(Source: Royal Navy; issued June 10, 2020)
HMS Montrose is ready once more for the challenge of keeping Middle Eastern sea lanes open, now through the height of summer.

The crew of the frigate have undergone intensive assessment to resume patrols, just months after they were carrying out the same mission in these same waters.

The frigate is geared up for four demanding months keeping Middle Eastern sea lanes open – ­and keeping illegal activity in check – in the latest chapter of her extended tour of duty in the region.

Normally based in Plymouth, the Type 23 frigate is deployed to Bahrain – the hub of the Royal Navy’s operations east of Suez – for three years as part of the new Forward Presence programme which ensures vessels spend more time at sea in an operational theatre – and their crews enjoy more settled, plan-able lives.

Every four months the ship’s company of more than 200 sailors, Royal Marines and Wildcat helicopter crew change entirely – in this case Port Crew, under Commander Ollie Hucker, moved on board Montrose for the third time.

Straight back into it, the ship sailed and the Port team were assessed by a specialist team from the UK to ensure they were prepared for the unique demands of Gulf operations.

The ship herself was given an ‘MOT and service’ to ensure her machinery and systems are ready for summer in the Middle East when temperatures can hit 50°C on the upper deck, even more in non-air-conditioned parts of Montrose, such as her hangar and engine spaces.

The ship performs a wide-ranging mission from working with the UK’s partners and Allies in the Gulf to provide reassurance to merchant shipping arriving or departing the region and conducting counter-terrorism/smuggling/piracy patrols in the broader waters of the Indian Ocean.

“We are safe, we have been trained and assured to a high standard and we are ready to conduct operations. After a comprehensive handover, Port crew are once again re-established back onboard; HMS Montrose, alongside our sister ship HMS Argyll remain at the tip of the spear in delivering operations in the broader Middle East,” said Commander Hucker.

During their four months in theatre, the Port Crew plus friends and family back home have set themselves the ambitious goal of running or walking around the world - 40,075km (24,901miles), the equivalent of 160,300 laps of the frigate’s upper deck (approximately 250 metres).

“Being away from our families during these challenging times, we wanted to do something to support those back home, so we came up with an idea to raise some money for some charities close to our hearts,” explained organiser Lieutenant Commander Barry Crosswood, the ship’s Principal Warfare Officer.

“Being able to involve the wider Montrose family in the initiative is really important to us – it’s about looking after everyone’s welfare, staying healthy and fighting the pandemic together. We can run laps around coronavirus.”

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