Navy minehunter returns home after three years

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Royal Navy minehunter HMS Chiddingfold returned to her home base in Portsmouth from the Gulf yesterday where she has spent three years on security patrols.

The vessel has been operating out of Bahrain as part of the UK’s commitment to maintain a mine countermeasures presence in the region.

As well as conducting security operations, HMS Chiddingfold carried out regular training with the UK’s regional partners and coalition nations.

Her crew of 45 changed approximately every six months - the last taking over in January 2011.

One of the crew’s highlights was a visit to Iraq in April 2011 with fellow minehunter HMS Grimsby. The visit to the southern Iraqi naval base in Umm Qasr was of particular interest to Chiddingfold’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Charles Maynard, and Operations Officer, Lieutenant Pete Davis.

They both served in Iraq in 2006 and 2008 respectively, providing specialist naval training to the Iraqi Navy and Marines. During the two-day visit they met up with many of the Iraqi sailors they mentored, and saw the significant strides the Iraqi Navy has made in recent years.

Lieutenant Commander Maynard said:

It was wonderful to return to Iraq and to see the progress that is being made by the Iraqi Navy. To take Chiddingfold to Umm Qasr was a real privilege for us all and for Pete and myself to be able to meet with many of the officers and sailors that we previously served alongside was very special.

There is a genuine and lasting bond between the Iraqi Navy and the Royal Navy that goes back many years and so to be able to continue that friendship during our visit has been really important.

Leading Engineering Technician (Marine Engineer) Lee greets his son Edward
Leading Engineering Technician (Marine Engineer) Lee greets his son Edward [Picture: LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

The visit was the last by Royal Navy warships before the training mission in Iraq was handed over entirely to the Iraqi Navy.

Chiddingfold also played a major role in Exercise Arabian Gauntlet - an annual minehunting exercise with the United States and Pakistani navies. The exercise demonstrated the ship’s mine countermeasures capability in a multinational and multi-threat environment, with Chiddingfold successfully detecting and recovering three drill mines.

The 6,500-mile (10,500km) journey home - in the company of HMS Grimsby - took the ship through the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Suez Canal and the Mediterranean.

Chiddingfold’s Navigating Officer, Lieutenant James Way, said:

Planning a passage like that was quite a challenge. Chiddingfold and Grimsby are small ships with limited endurance so port stops have to be carefully considered to ensure we don’t run low on fuel and provisions.

There were things that tested us along the way, not least the south west monsoon in the Arabian Sea. However, our training and experience prevailed, allowing us to respond to any eventuality we have encountered while continuing to contribute to international maritime security.

The crew made the most of their spare time during the journey with a run, row and ride challenge, covering the distance home in the three disciplines to raise money for prostate cancer research.

Lieutenant Commander Maynard said:

It goes without saying that the ship’s company are excited about returning to Portsmouth and be met by family and friends. Now the ship is safely alongside the crew can look forward to a well-deserved period of leave before embarking on a major overhaul of the ship and her propulsion plant.