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● A blast of water from a tug as HMS Blyth returns to Faslane after 2½ years
Picture: PO(Phot) Tam MacDonald, FRPU Clyde
THE wait for some was longer than
a half years, their sailors have not; they’ve been defence watches – saw Flag Officer Sea Training Atherstone – played host to Britain’s second
rotated through the vessels from the Sandown personnel visiting the ship, inspecting both the most senior admiral.
The last time Her Majesty’s Ships Blyth and
crew ‘pool’. Navigating Officer, Lt Tom McPhail, and his sub CINC Fleet Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, plus
Ramsey saw Gareloch, Tony Blair was premier,
The latest occupants of Blyth and Ramsey department, as well as the ships’ Merlin Flight. Director General Surface Ships Rear Admiral
the word ‘credit’ was usually followed by ‘card’
have been aboard for eight months. Members of the Naval Flying Standards Flight Bob Love, dropped in on the ships to discuss
not ‘crunch’ and HMS Daring was but a hull in
“Ramsey and Blyth might be small ships, but were also on board for several days, appraising operations in this most trying of environments.
the water.
their impact has been enormous,” said Ramsey’s the abilities of the two pilots – Lt Matt Robinson For engineer Admiral Love, there was also a
That was late 2006. A lot’s happened since
CO Lt Cdr Nick Borbone proudly. and Nick Bell. The duo and their supporting team chance to discuss the new forward support for
then – not least for the two mine countermeasures
“What they have achieved is testament to were praised for their high sortie rate in support the Bahrain-based warships as well as other
vessels who have helped to eliminate the threat
the dedication and professionalism of the eight of operations. maintenance issues.
of the underwater weapons from stretches of the
different crews that have been involved in the After punching through the Strait of Hormuz, The three ships – plus HMS Chiddingfold, the
northern Gulf.
deployment since its inception.” the ship carried out an anti-piracy sweep in the last of the RN mine warfare quartet in the Gulf
But now they need fret no more about life east
HMS Lancaster has not been away quite Gulf of Aden, then entered the Red Sea where the – have most recently been honing their mine-
of Suez, for the duo are back home in Faslane,
as long as Blyth or Ramsey: 190 days to be Operation Telic baton was handed to her sister finding skills with US vessels.
two and a half years after departing.
accurate. HMS Richmond, steaming south. Now Bahrain may lack the attractions perhaps
On the seaways it is 6,500 miles from the
More than 700 wellwishers were waiting for her That at last offered the ship’s company the first of other Gulf cities, but Jack being Jack, he can
sisters’ Middle East base (Bahrain) to home on
arrival from the Gulf, where she’s been guardship real chance to relax together in six months, with make the most of it.
the Clyde, hopping from Bahrain-Oman-Djibouti-
for Iraq’s two oil platforms over the winter. a barbecue and camel (read ‘horse’) racing night The hub of British operations in the Gulf is the
Malta-Gib-Porto for the necessary supplies and
She spent precisely 82 days steaming around put on by the warrant and chief petty officers’ HQ of the US Fifth Fleet.
fuel on the six-week passage.
the KAAOT and ABOT platforms (covering 8,351 mess. The event raised several hundred pounds “My God do they know how to construct a
That passage proved to be remarkably
nautical miles in the process – quite impressive for the ship’s charity, and a good evening was base – everything that you could want under one
uneventful. The Gulf of Aden proved remarkably
when the patrol area is pretty constricted). had by all. roof, it’s kinda like Toys ‘R’ Us for sailors,” says
pirate-free (although merchantmen were delighted
In all 31 tankers and 38 tugs were swept by her From Suez, the Type 23 frigate made for Souda HMS Richmond’s LET(WE) ‘Robby’ Robertson.
to be in the presence of British warships for the
boarding team (it’s a duty increasingly performed Bay in Crete and an overnight fuel stop heading You cannot stay in Toys ‘R’ Us forever, sadly.
brief time the Sandown-class vessels passed
by Iraqi sailors and marines), while more than 300 west for Valencia in Spain through a choppy No, after four days, Richmond had to sail for the
vessels were queried by her ops room team. Mediterranean (what else in February?) – the final platforms.
There was a chance for hands to bathe in the
And while all that was going on, 250 million port of call of the deployment. There they found locals not too chuffed with
Red Sea, 70 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia,
barrels of oil – worth around $10bn (£6.8bn) were “I am incredibly proud of HMS Lancaster’s the weather – good for Brits, bad for ‘Gulfers’.
where the water was a balmy 25˚C.
safely pumped into waiting tankers during the ship’s company,” said CO Cdr Rory Bryan. “It was freezing,” says Robby. “‘Only’ about
Despite a choppy Med, the pair reached Malta
Red Rose frigate’s time on task. “Each and every one of them has performed 15˚C. There were people wearing woolly pulleys
a day earlier than planned; after nearly three full
Strangely, the enduring memory for most admirably in the demanding operational (jumpers) and foul-weather jackets on and all
weeks at sea the ships spent five days alongside Lancastrians is not the sight of the two rather
environment of the Northern Gulf. They have sorts.
undergoing maintenance before undertaking the drab oil platforms, but rather the final sight of the consistently delivered everything I have asked of “You could understand this at night on the
final legs. QE2 at sea. them and collectively risen to the challenges they bridge, but at midday in the Northern Arabian
And wouldn’t you know it? There was even “Coming off the back end of a three-week have faced together.” Gulf never.”
Gulf weather waiting for them (well, sunshine, patrol, digging out to put polish on the ship, and Meanwhile back in the Gulf... Don’t worry, we’ve a feeling it’s about to get
if not the temperatures) upon finally arriving on then for the day itself – it couldn’t have come off Ramsey’s and Blyth’s places in Bahrain have hotter...
the Clyde. any better,” said PO O’Neill. been taken by their sisters Pembroke and
There were also more than 200 friends and “I think that first cheer really showed the QE2 Grimsby (both will be in the Middle East until ● Lancs for the memories... HMS Lancaster
family waiting on the Faslane jetty. that Lancaster has spirit.” 2011). (foreground) hands the Telic baton to her sister
Although the ships have been away for two and The last patrol – two weeks in February in They – plus Hunt-class minehunter HMS HMS Richmond in the Red Sea
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