HMS Grimsby is about to end her two-year-plus tour of duty in the Middle East and return to the cooler surroundings of Faslane, while HMS Iron Duke is making her first appearance in the Gulf and, in this instance, shaking off the cobwebs after a fortnight in Dubai.
The United Arab Emirates metropolis was the choice for the Type 23 frigate’s mid-deployment stand-down, permitting essential work on some of the ship’s systems and some essential R&R (Rest & Recuperation) for the ship’s company. In addition, the longer period alongside allowed the frigate to host two important visits.
Alan Duncan, the Minister for International Development, was invited aboard for a briefing on the challenges encountered - and the contribution made - by the sizeable Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary presence in the Indian Ocean in the struggle against piracy.
Shortly after the MP departed, the Armed Forces Pay Review Body came on board. A mixture of private and public sector economic experts, it’s the group’s job to provide the Ministry of Defence with independent advice on the pay and allowances sailors, soldiers and airmen should receive.
To ensure they understand life in the Royal Navy - or at least a smidgen of it - they visit a deployed surface ship every year, with Iron Duke this year’s choice. They also visit Senior Service units and establishments in the UK, and Army and RAF establishments at home and abroad.
The review group’s members talked to crew of all ranks on the Type 23, from Able Seamen right up to the Commanding Officer, Commander Nick Cooke-Priest, and left Iron Duke with a clear understanding of the challenges of life aboard a British warship in the Gulf.
With visitors departed and maintenance completed, it was back to sea for a small trial period to ensure everything was working properly after the work carried out in Dubai.
This trial period was conducted in the presence of Bahrain-based HMS Grimsby, with various Officer of the Watch manoeuvres and other procedures completed before the two Royal Navy vessels parted company.
The Sandown Class minehunter will shortly be making the 6,000-mile (9,700km) journey home as HMS Ramsey sails east to take her place.
As for Iron Duke, with the task of protecting Iraq’s two oil terminals now over - the ship completed the UK’s eight-year mission last month with the final patrol of the Al Basrah platform - the role of the Royal Navy’s on-watch Gulf frigate is now wider, providing support and reassurance to seafarers in the region.