HMS Penzance Heads for Mediterranean
Minehunter HMS Penzance has left Scotland to begin her stint with a NATO force patrolling the Mediterranean. Just three months after leaving refit on the Forth, the Faslane-based vessel is joining Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 2, taking over from HMS Ledbury.
Just three months after emerging from a major overhaul, minehunter HMS Penzance has left her home on the Clyde to take up the UK baton from HMS Ledbury on NATO duties in the Mediterranean.
The Sandown-class ship will join a small force of like-minded sailors in Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 2, whose job it is to patrol the Mediterranean – but it also can be found in the Black Sea, eastern Atlantic and occasionally the other side of the Suez Canal.
The group has the dual task of working together so that should there be a clear and present danger from mines in the 21st Century, it’s ready to tackle them, as well as dealing with any historic ordnance littering the seas that it comes across, anything from the two World Wars to more recent conflicts such as the Balkans in the 1990s.
The NATO force currently comprises minehunters from Italy, Turkey, Germany and the UK, plus a command ship from the Deutsche Marine as the Germans are currently in charge of the group.
Some of Penzance’s crew are veterans of NATO missions, such as LD Baker from Portsmouth who last worked with the international mine force back in 2006.
“It’s been a while since I’ve worked under the NATO badge, but I’m really looking forward to working as part of a task group again,”
said the 28-year-old leading hand.
“It was a great experience last time in the Baltic, and I have no doubt it’ll be just as successful this time around.”
And others like 23-year-old AB Ryan Matthews from Bolton are NATO rookies.
“It’s great to be deploying for something we’ve prepared and trained hard for.
“I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how other Navies do things and getting to know some of the lads on their ships when we’re operating together.”
Following her revamp in the shed at Rosyth, Penzance has spent the summer undergoing trials and Operational Sea Training courtesy of the RN’s globally-respected FOST organisation.
A rigorous programme have ensured that both the ship and the ship’s company are fully prepared for the NATO mission, ready to make her contribution to the safeguarding of sea lanes.
“Our departure is the culmination of a very challenging period,”
said Lt Cdr Nick Unwin, Penzance’s Commanding Officer.
“Only four months ago, we took responsibility for the ship from Babcock Marine as the refit period drew to a close and we moved back on board.
“Since then, my ship’s company has worked tirelessly to complete trials and training to deploy and I am immensely proud of what they have achieved. The support we have had from all areas has been tremendous not just from Naval organisations but also from our families we leave behind too
“This particular commitment is a long-standing, enduring commitment our Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels have undertaken for many years and our upcoming work in the Mediterranean region will continue to build and strengthen our working relationships with our NATO colleagues.”
Press Release, September 12, 2013; Image: Royal Navy