HMS Blyth Heads Home after Leading NATO Minehunting Mission
- Training & Education
HMS Blyth has begun the 3,000-mile journey for home on the Clyde after completing six months leading a NATO minehunting force in the eastern Mediterranean. The Sandown-class ship has left Aksaz in Turkey and will be back in Faslane in time for an emotional reunion with families before Christmas.
The minehunter has completed her six-month tour of duty leading a NATO force, much of which was spent in the Aegean, Marmara and Black Seas, and is on the 3,000-mile journey home to Faslane.
Blyth left the Clyde back in June to join Mine Countermeasures Group 2, acting as the ‘command ship’ during exercises, leading similar vessels from the Turkish, German and Italian navies.
She met up with the other NATO vessels in Romania and Bulgaria in July, having slipped through the Bosphorus.
Embarked on board the British ship were NATO staff officers from Greece and Turkey, ensuring maximum co-operation was achieved throughout the diverse group.
The ships were soon involved in Exercise Poseidon, where they carried out mine hunting while coming under simulated attack from fast-attack craft, helicopters and Romanian MiG 21 jets at the same time. The ships successfully saw off the mock attack before moving on to a joint search and rescue exercise.
“Working in the Black Sea was a fantastic chance to experience a new region whilst serving as the command platform in a major exercise for the first time,” said Lt Nick Court, Blyth’s executive officer.
“The period went very well in terms of our tasking, and it was also great to experience a new culture in Romania and Bulgaria.”
From there it was off to Italy, visiting Augusta and Sardinia whilst conducting surveillance and maritime security operations on the way.
The next challenge for the multi-national task group was Exercise Noble Mariner which saw Blyth and her colleagues successfully identify drill mines in waters chock-a-block with yachts and shipping.
Port visits to Sicily, Albania and Greece followed, after which HMS Blyth once again took charge, this time for a major mine-hunting exercise in Turkey’s Bay of Izmir. Here, the group once again found themselves under simulated attack on the water and in the air, this time from F-16 fighter jets.
Whilst alongside in Izmir, ten members of the ship’s company made an overnight trip to the Gallipoli peninsula, where a guided tour allowed them to understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by the Royal Navy and British and Commonwealth forces during the failed 1915 campaign to drive Turkey out of the Great War.
“Visiting the Gallipoli battlefield was a hugely interesting and sobering experience,” said Sub Lt Glyn Duffell, an officer under training on Blyth.
“It was important to take the opportunity to visit the battlefield and to remember the lives lost on both sides.”
At regular intervals throughout the deployment Blyth also conducted various in-group exercises with the other NATO ships designed to test co-operation within the force.
These included a towing exercise with the German minehunter Grömitz, as well as a simulated damage control evolution which involved receiving assistance from the other ships of the group.
HMS Blyth bid fond farewell to her NATO task group colleagues at the beginning of this month after brief stops in the Turkish ports of Mersin and Aksaz.
“Blyth has acted as the command ship for the NATO group for almost five months. It is a testament to my team’s efforts that we have taken the challenges in our stride and performed well throughout the deployment,” said Blyth’s Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Tim Davey.
“It has been a long journey since our Operational Sea Training in February and we are looking forward to being re-united with our families before Christmas.”
Naval Today Staff, December 6, 2012; Image: Royal Navy