All Change in Bahrain

All Change in Bahrain

It’s all change in the Gulf with the arrival of two new ships and two new crews to sustain the Royal Navy’s long-term mine warfare force in the region. Her Majesty’s Ships Atherstone and Shoreham have arrived to replace outgoing Middleton and Pembroke, whilst the crews of HMS Quorn and Ramsey have traded places with their counterparts in the UK.

Minehunter HMS Atherstone leads fellow mine warfare ship HMS Shoreham and new destroyer HMS Diamond on manoeuvres somewhere off the coast of the United Arab Emirates as a 7,000-mile odyssey for the two small ships came to an end.

After a six-week journey from the UK (from Faslane for Shoreham, Portsmouth for the ‘Crazy A’), the duo have reached the waters which will be their home for the next two to four years, whereas Diamond is ‘only’ out here until the tail end of 2012.

Britain maintains a constant minehunter presence in Bahrain – four warships, plus a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship. Crews are changed every six or seven months, while the ships themselves typically spend three years in the region.

Homeward bound are Pembroke (making for the Clyde) and Middleton (heading for the Solent), with Atherstone and Shoreham taking their place.

The passage for the outbound ships – all the while they monitored passing shipping as part of the Royal Navy’s commitment to global maritime security – was relatively calm.

But upon entering the Gulf of Oman, the pair ran into the full force of the south-west monsoon – winds of 40kts and a five-metre sea swell, conditions known with usual Royal Navy understatement as ‘lumpy’.

In the calmer waters of the UAE, the incomers met the outgoers to formally handover duties in the region before Atherstone and Shoreham joined up with Diamond to enter the southern Gulf together.

Once inside, the minehunters parted company – Shoreham made for the Gulf’s most well-known metropolis, Dubai, the Crazy A sailed for Bahrain.

Both are now getting used to the challenges of training in the sandy waters and searing temperatures (around 40˚C/104˚F right now)…

…as are the crews of HM Ships Quorn and Ramsey, who’ve just taken charge of the Hunt and Sandown-class vessels respectively in the latest roulement of mine warfare sailors.

Aboard Quorn, MCM2 Crew 3 – custodians of Quorn’s sister HMS Brocklesby for the past two years – while MCM1 Crew 5 have relieved Crew 6 in HMS Ramsey.

For the new incumbents on Ramsey, the Gulf is not a new experience – many served with HMS Grimsby which returned from this part of the world not 12 months ago.

For the ex-Brocklesby crew, however, the heat might be a bit of a shock; Brock has spent the past two years around the UK and Med (although it did grow quiet ‘hot’ for them off Libya where they famously dealt with a mine laid by Gaddafi forces).

Despite the Gulf heat, the tempo in the summer does not let up for the mine warfare quartet which carry out a mix of routine survey work, training and international exercises, as well as continue to build on the UK’s – and RN’s – long-standing bond with Gulf states.

“The deployment’s a great opportunity to show our strengths – and to put into practice all the hard work and training that’s taken place over the past six months,” said Quorn’s Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Jim Buck.

“I’m confident we’ve come into this with the strongest team possible – and are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

And Ramsey? “She remains ready for any task that may come her way,” says her CO Lt Cdr Giles Palin emphatically.

“In between our busy operational programme, the crew will try to find time to enjoy the cultural experiences of the region and, where they can, get ashore to visit the splendid cities and countries of the Middle East.”

Naval Today Staff, August 10, 2012; Image: Royal Navy