HMS Blyth Returns to HM Naval Base Clyde, UK
HMS Blyth, one of the Royal Navy’s advanced Sandown-Class mine hunters, received an emotional welcomed home from families, friends and loved-ones, when the vessel and its 37-strong crew returned to HM Naval Base Clyde from a six-month NATO deployment.
Home in time for Christmas and sporting Santa hats, crew members were reunited with their loved-ones at the dockside after many weeks of separation, receiving a rousing Naval Base welcome from the Royal Marine Band Scotland.
HMS Blyth left HM Naval Base Clyde for the Mediterranean and Black Sea in June this year, making the 3,000 mile journey to become part of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 – or SNMCMG2.
Serving as the “command platform” during multiple exercises and security operations in the region, the crew worked alongside colleagues from the Turkish, German and Italian navies.
The challenging deployment saw the small ship operate in all parts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, conducting numerous exercises in mine hunting, surveillance, maritime security operations, and providing a NATO high-readiness force in the region.
Arriving in the region at the end of July, Blyth transited through the Istanbul Straits to the Black Sea countries of Romania and Bulgaria, before taking her place in the task group. The ships were soon involved in Exercise Poseidon, where they conducted mine hunting serials and, at the same time, came under simulated attack from fast-attack craft, helicopters and Romanian MiG 21 jets. The ships successfully saw off the mock attacks before moving on to a joint search and rescue exercise.
HMS Blyth bid a fond farewell to her NATO task group colleagues at the beginning of December after brief stops in the Turkish ports of Mersin and Aksaz.
Lieutenant Commander Tim Davey, Commanding Officer of the mine hunter, said: “Blyth has acted as the command ship for the Standing NATO MCM 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 mission.
“What this deployment shows is how the Royal Navy helps promote stable and co-operative relationships with friendly and neutral nations around the world. By working and training together we help bring down barriers and promote common understanding. It was with some sadness that we said goodbye to our multi-national colleagues.”
He continued: “It is fantastic to be reunited with our loved-ones in time for Christmas. The entire crew are looking forward to spending the festive season at home and taking a well-deserved break.”
HMS Blyth’s return home coincides with an important anniversary in the Royal Navy’s calendar. December marks six years of continuous mine hunting operations in the Gulf, helping to keep shipping lanes safe and mine free.
Blyth, along with sister ship, HMS Ramsey, were first to travel to the Gulf region on 21 December 2006, and the Royal Navy has maintained and developed its Mine Counter Measures (MCM) capability there ever since.
Routinely, ships spend three-years on station with the crew changing over about every six months, before sailing home and swapping with another ship of the same class. Today the UK has HMS Atherstone, HMS Quorn, HMS Ramsey and HMS Shoreham deployed in the Gulf.
The UK’s MCM force is supported in the region by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), currently through RFA Cardigan Bay, which acts as a command ship for MCM operations and as a support platform for the mine hunters. The current Commander of the UK’s MCM force in the Gulf is Commander Martin Mackey and while at sea commands both UK and US MCM ships with over 600 personnel.
Commander Mackey said the deployment has given the Royal Navy an extraordinary opportunity to deepen specialist knowledge and its force is widely acknowledged by most of their international colleagues as being world leaders.
“Sea mines exist all over the world,” said Commander Mackey. “By practicing and developing our skills in the complex waters of the Arabian Gulf we are able to maintain our position at the forefront of mine hunting and mine disposal.
“Increasing the capacity of regional nations to develop their own skills through multinational exercises is core to the MCM mission and we look forward to celebrating many more milestone achievements in the future.”
Naval Today Staff, December 24, 2012; Image: Royal Navy