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A day in the life of Crew 6
HMS ATHERSTONE may times heavier than Atherstone. on board a minehunter.
have been in the Gulf for
By the time the RAS Normally he would have headed back
the past three years, and
(replenishment at sea) was set in a seaboat – preferably Monmouth’s,
Crew 6 may have been
up and under way, dusk had which is bigger and faster than
working in her since
fallen and the evolution was Atherstone’s.
completed in the dark – quite But the frigate came up with
last July, but there is no
an experience as Atherstone something even better – she sent her
slacking off in the pace
sped along just 30 metres Merlin across, and Stuart was winched
at which the minehunter from the American leviathan up to the aircraft as it hovered at mast
operates. in a worsening sea state height above Atherstone’s stern as the
Atherstone and her taking on fuel. ship kept a steady course and speed.
Hunt-class sister HMS Having disengaged, the Crew 6 had barely returned to their
Chiddingfold are based at Hunt-class ship resumed her bread-and-butter survey work when the
Bahrain, with 46-strong crews primary task, using her sonar bridge team heard a radio distress call.
cycling through on a six-month to survey the sea bed in the search Having plotted the relative locations
rota. for anything mine-shaped which could they found they were just 16 miles away,
Crew 6 is typical, with seven officers present a threat. so the Captain was swiftly informed and
– two under training – nine senior rates That sounds simple, but the process is the information passed on to the team
and 30 junior rates, headed by their relatively complex, requiring input from running the coalition exercise.
Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Chris every member of the ship’s company. As more information was gleaned the
Nelson. The area of sea to be searched is stricken vessel turned out to be an Iraqi
So what does the 700-tonne plastic divided into sections by the mine warfare fishing dhow which was flooding fast.
warship and her ship’s company do out team, and lines are then decided, along Atherstone, an American frigate
in the Gulf, far from their home port of which the ship drives slowly scanning and command platform RFA Lyme
Portsmouth? the sea bed. Bay hurried to the spot and when
Let’s take midday on a Wednesday as The action begins when a contact Atherstone arrived to lend help with her
our starting point, right in the middle arouses suspicion amongst the sailors boats a team of Americans had already
of a two-week stint at sea which saw manning the sonar screens, and further stemmed the flow and started pumping
RN units alongside American forces on investigation is required. out the dhow.
Exercise Shamal. The command team might call on The frigate eventually towed the
The usual activities are continuing Seafox for a closer look – a vehicle dhow to harbour.
on board – 46 hungry sailors are being dives down to give the operations room Atherstone recovered her boats and
fed from a galley smaller than your a video link, and if needed another headed back to the exercise; by now it
average bathroom, one of the 24 loads vehicle could be dispatched to deliver a was early afternoon and another lively
of washing daily is going through the live round, nullifying the threat. 24 hours had begun.
single machine, and some of the crew Alternatively, the command team Lt Cdr Nelson said: “I am extremely
are catching up with sleep. may want the human touch, and one proud of all of the ship’s company –
The sailors are at their place of work of the ship’s highly-trained diving team MCM2 Crew 6 – currently here in
while on watch – one of seven hours and may be sent down – as deep as 40m. HMS Atherstone.
one of five in every 24 – and everything While down in the water, they may “Many of them have many jobs,
else (eating, showering, shaving, washing, be asked to destroy the object, recover whether it is supporting operations,
PT, administration, training and so on) it for further investigation, or produce feeding the team, managing engineering
has to be squeezed in off watch. diagrams. equipment, diving or our core mine-
Being out of sight of land for a On the day in question, Atherstone’s hunting role.
fortnight also means being out of sight diving team carried out a number “It really is extremely satisfying to see
of a fuel depot, but when you are of crucial safety drills within their them work as a team, and even more
operating as part of a coalition task decompression chamber, though the rewarding conducting so many different
force there is the opportunity to top up Leading Diver – James Roberts – was things on a daily basis.”
from a passing tanker. called away to investigate a contact. Crew 6 – ‘the Super Six’ – are due
On this particular Wednesday the Our 24-hour period also saw the end to return to the UK this month to man
tanker in question was Henry J Kaiser- of a visit by LA(Phot) Stuart Hill, based HMS Ledbury; they will be replaced in
class USNS John Lenthall – five times in HMS Monmouth but temporarily the Gulf by MCM2 Crew 8.
● HMS Atherstone conducts diving operations in the Gulf
Picture: LA (Phot) Stuart Hill longer, three times wider and almost 60 ‘loaned’ to his old ship to document life Gulf round-up – pp24-25marina
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