Crowds of families and friends welcomed Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth back to her base port of HM Naval Base Devonport yesterday following a six-month anti-piracy deployment.
More than 500 people packed the jetty to mark the arrival of the Type 23 frigate following her successful maritime policing patrol in which she was engaged in fighting piracy, smuggling and terrorism east of Suez.
HMS Monmouth’s Commanding Officer, Commander Dean Bassett, said:
We have had a very successful deployment and the key to this has been my ship’s company who have been outstanding in their professionalism and commitment. They are a credit to HMS Monmouth, the Royal Navy and their country.
They all rose to the challenges of operating in a very active theatre of operations. But the biggest challenge was coping with the separation from families and loved ones who are left behind. It was, therefore, fantastic to see hundreds of people lining the jetty waving and cheering as we came alongside.
I would like to extend my personal thanks and that of my ship’s company to all the people who have given their support to us both before and during our deployment. Without the knowledge of practical support being given at home then providing operational effectiveness would be that much harder.
The ship has patrolled a vast area (Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Somali Basin, Indian Ocean and the Gulf) and worked with many other nations to counter-terrorism, prevent smuggling and to disrupt and deter piracy.
HMS Monmouth also took part in multinational maritime exercises, working and training with other navies and supporting UK strategic interests.
Petty Officer Stephen Slaney was met at Devonport yesterday by four generations of his family, ranging from his grandmother, aged 88, to his children, three-year-old Calum, Shane, 12, and Immarni, aged eight. He said:
It was a good deployment with top achievements being counter-piracy successes. I’m ecstatic to be back. The highlight was having my dad sail back from Gibraltar with other fathers on board as a goodwill gesture.
Leading Hand Halliday said:
It’s fantastic to see Dylan and the family again. I was allowed to fly home to see his birth, but he has changed so much already. He looks very healthy. We had an eventful deployment with hits against pirates.
Leading Hand Gavin Smith was met by his fiancée Hayley and their children, six-year-old Chloe, and Riley, aged 18 months. He said:
I’m really looking forward to spending time with my family. We did have some interesting port visits and it was my first time on a deployment when we have had direct engagement with pirates. It shows how important it is to have the Navy out on these deployments.
Since her arrival in the Middle East in April, HMS Monmouth has achieved notable successes on operations. On patrol, she closely scrutinised maritime activity and conducted boardings, including direct engagement with pirated vessels.
On one occasion, acting on intelligence from another warship, she tracked and intercepted a pirate mothership (command vessel) in the Gulf of Aden.
After exhausting the full range of warnings the pirates surrendered and Royal Marine and Royal Navy teams boarded the pirate command vessel, successfully detaining several suspected pirates and releasing 17 hostages.
HMS Monmouth also came to the aid of mariners in distress, including providing urgent medical assistance for a sick sailor and aiding a merchant vessel under attack from armed men.
In the latter case, HMS Monmouth made a high-speed approach from 90 miles (145km) away to help a 60,000-tonne bulk carrier boarded by six armed men, where the 24 crew had barricaded themselves in the ship’s citadel (a secure room onboard).
The frigate’s boarding teams were sent across by boat and helicopter to ensure the merchant vessel was clear of intruders, but they had fled as the warship approached. The ship’s crew were then released from their refuge, allowing the vessel to proceed.
HMS Monmouth’s crew will now take some well-earned leave before they return to duty.