[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
HMS Iron Duke has spent almost seven months east of the Suez Canal, and finished her deployment supporting operations in Libya, where she used her firepower to destroy a gun battery outside the besieged town of Misurata. She also supported NATO aircraft by firing star shells into the sky, illuminating for them Gaddafi forces’ rocket launchers, fuel dumps, ammo stores, artillery batteries and command and control centres.
Before her Libya tasking, HMS Iron Duke had covered nearly 38,000 nautical miles, visiting eight countries, and working directly with more than 250 vessels from countries across the world.
Iron Duke’s primary role after leaving Portsmouth in January was on Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR – working with international navies to combat smuggling and human trafficking in support of counter-terrorism.
HMS Iron Duke then sailed to the Gulf, where she performed the final patrol of the Al Basrah oil terminal following eight years of Royal Navy presence there.
Her task was to protect the platform and provide support and reassurance to the surrounding fisherman and trade vessels.
Combined with Iron Duke’s operational tasking has been a raft of high-profile engagements and port visits. In particular, the ship played a key part in the Kuwait ‘50-20’ celebrations, commemorating 50 years of independence, and 20 years since the liberation from Saddam Hussein’s regime.
HMS Iron Duke demonstrated the flexibility of Royal Navy warships by racing to the aid of a Korean fisherman in the Gulf of Oman who was badly injured after a wire broke free and struck him in the face.
Commanding Officer of HMS Iron Duke, Commander Nick Cooke-Priest, said:
It is impossible to capture or articulate the full range of emotions, occurrences, complexities and challenges that are inherent in naval deployments, but success is generally optimised through commitment, courage and teamwork.
In Iron Duke, it has been my enormous privilege to lead a team that delivered those essential attributes in spades, always accompanied by a willingness to deliver at the optimum standard, and always with a ready smile.
Fellow Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond’s tasks have been no less varied. She has been on a seven-month deployment that has seen the ship operating as far east as Brunei, and as far south as the Seychelles, deep into the Indian Ocean.
After leaving Portsmouth in January, Richmond spent two months on counter-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa. The embarked Royal Marine and Royal Navy boarding teams investigated suspicious vessels and reassured fishermen and local dhows with their presence.
On top of the counter-piracy tasking, HMS Richmond escorted a cargo vessel carrying humanitarian aid from the UN’s World Food Programme into Somalia – providing the hungry with nine-million meals.
The frigate then made a series of port stops at Salalah in Oman, Djibouti, and the Seychelles, where the ship provided expert advice on piracy and gave engineering support to the Seychelles Coastguard - key partners in fighting piracy in the region. The visit coincided with the International Carnival of the Sea; primarily designed to advertise the Seychelles as a tourist and business attraction on the world stage with warships from Russia and India also present.
Next stop was to Singapore, and then Changi Naval Base for the International Maritime Defence Exhibition; where HMS Richmond provided a ‘floating sales platform’ to help UK-based companies secure vital export contracts into the region.
While in the area, HMS Richmond led a major military exercise called Bersama Shield, with participants from the Five Powers Defence Agreement (FPDA) nations of Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. The exercise was concentrated mainly in the South China Sea, close to the Malaysian coast, with a total of nine warships and dozens of combat aircraft taking part in numerous scenarios.
A visit to the Sultanate of Brunei on the Island of Borneo represented the ship’s final stop in the Far East. The visit was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, and culminated in a large military tattoo. From Brunei, the ship headed westward to the Maldives, stopping briefly at Menorca to help commemorate 300 years since the building of the Royal Navy hospital on the Isla del Rey.
HMS Richmond’s Commanding Officer, Captain Mike Walliker, said:
I am delighted to bring HMS Richmond and all her crew safely home after a demanding seven-month operational tour. My ship’s company are extremely proud of the contribution we have made to countering piracy, feeding the starving in Somalia and promoting the UK’s interests in the Far East.