UK: HMS Echo Returns Home

HMS Echo Returns Home

The Royal Navy survey ship HMS Echo returns to home to HM Naval Base, Devonport, Plymouth, on Thursday (16 August) after a 19 month deployment. The ship has been away for 593 days with 421 actually at sea and has sailed about 74,000 miles – 2.5 times around the equator.

The ship made 24 stops in 11 nations and 13 different ports including Valletta, Salalah, Limassol, Gibraltar, Bahrain, Mina Rashid, Dubai, Jebel Ali, Mombasa, Mumbai, Seychelles, Haifa (the first RN ship to visit Israel in four years) and Tripoli (a rare visit by a Royal Naval ship).

The ship’s survey work of little-charted waters has also enabled other ships and task forces to operate safely and confidently. This has included working with Plymouth-based HMS Albion on the largest Royal Naval exercise last year and other units on regular maritime policing patrols in the Middle East.

HMS Echo surveyed over 3,150 square miles, the equivalent to the area of Cyprus, conducted 181 sea bed samples, the deepest of which was 974m, and 986 surveys using sound.

Over 45,000 rounds of ammunition was expended, two of which were fired in anger on a real ‘quick-draw’ incident against a suspected Somali pirate vessel. Firing two saluting canon rounds proved sufficient to deter further night approaches by suspect criminals.

Meanwhile, the ship flew the flag on visits providing an opportunity for the crew to rest, with Haifa being a popular destination. Many of the crew attended a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City, a highlight of the deployment for many.

Able Seaman Matthew Baker-Irons said:

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Lieutenant Richard Watsham said his highlight was visiting Mombasa where he enjoyed a safari and sailing and feeling proud during the November Ceremonies. Leading Steward Andy Drinkwater remembered the Seychelles:

“It was wet and fishy…it chucked it down and we were moored next to a tuna boat.”

Petty Officer ‘Scouse’ Morris picked his highlight as Mumbai:

“A lot of poverty and a large culture shock. Lots of beggars. Tuk Tuks were great fun and the curries were nice.”

Leading Writer Lucy Gilston said:

“I have been onboard for the whole of the deployment and I can say the most memorable port visit and the one that will stick in my mind forever will be Mumbai, India.

“I have never witnessed such an intense social diversity all mixed together in one area. I was really enlightened from every experience I encountered.”

Many of the ship’s company attended a short tour of central Tripoli, organised by British Embassy staff. Commander Matt Syrett, Commanding Officer of HMS Echo said:

“Martyr’s Square was a pleasant place for a cup of coffee and it was fascinating to see the balcony from which Gadaffi used to address the masses.

“Tripoli had the same hustle and bustle of any other North African city and it was a really positive sign that the country is looking forwards not backwards.”

Able Seaman Emily Gordon appreciated the irony of skiing in Dubai at Christmas:

“Having to bundle yourself up in ski clothing after spending the rest of the day in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops”

Emergency drills included 78 fire and flood exercises, 81 man-overboard exercises and 200 sets of breakdown drills; 600 litres of paint were used to maintain the ship, exceeding the 400 litres of ice cream eaten.

The ship’s crew played football against eight different nations and the record was lost 10, drew 1 and won 2, the biggest win was 5-2 against Jebel Ali team and biggest loss was 9-1 against a Maltese side. Other nations played included: China, Libya, Oman, India, UAE, Kenya, Malta and the RAF in Cyprus.

The crew is rotated while on deployment, so all have leave periods ashore in between shifts on board and 29 members of the ship’s company who left Plymouth remain on board on Thursday. Three of the crew have got married, and seven babies have been born since the ship has been away.

The following food and drink was consumed: eggs 2,340 dozen, teabags 47,850, flour 6,900kg, potatoes 9,870kg , beef 6,048kg and chocolate cake 1,920 pieces.

The ship has enjoyed a community spirit enhanced by social events on many weekends and the ship’s company raising money for charity. The generous sailors raised £1,200 for charities through a wide range of events.

Naval Today Staff, August 16, 2012; Image: Royal Navy