Hugs and kisses all round as Navy mine hunter returns from mission to Gulf
Piper Iain MacPhee plays a ceud mile failte for the sailors from HMS Bangor.
By Gavin Carr
Royal Navy mine hunter HMS Bangor returned to her home port of HM Naval Base Clyde today after a three-year Gulf deployment.
The Sandown class vessel and her crew of 40 Royal Navy sailors were given a rousing welcome from the dozens of family members, friends and loved-ones who gathered at the Base to see her safely back home.
Dumbarton piper Iain MacPhee, who works at the Faslane Naval Base, piped the “love boat” home.
There were tears at the dockside as Able Seaman Josh Bertman got down on one knee to propose to girlfriend Hazel Staunton who had travelled from Doncaster for the homecoming.
Josh (22), who has been away for over eight months and has been planning the proposal since he left, was first off the ship as she tied-up alongside. His proposal took nine-months pregnant Hazel (21) completely by surprise.
“I couldn’t wait to see Josh as I was so excited for him to see the bump,” said Hazel. “He’s missed the scans while he’s been away but I have sent him the pictures. The nursery is almost ready, but his first job when he gets home is to build the cot!”
Another couple who were reunited were Matthew and Maree Stewart. The pair tied-the-knot on April 28 and no sooner were they married than Matthew flew out to join HMS Bangor on May 5.
“We had a fantastic time at the wedding but it was very emotional saying goodbye to Matthew afterwards.” Said Maree. “I’m so looking forward to seeing him and finding out what married life is really like!”
While on deployment Bangor and Crew 2 from the Faslane-based First Mine Counter Measures Squadron worked alongside US, French, Omani and Kuwaiti allies in the region conducting seabed surveys and on the lookout for maritime mines.
In March the ship joined RFA Cardigan Bay and HMS Ledbury to participate in Khunjar Hadd (“Sharp Dagger”) which helped test the ability of the navies to work alongside one another.
Commanding Officer of HMS Bangor, Lieutenant Commander Ben Evans, said: “It’s been a long but very enjoyable deployment and I am extremely proud of my crew. In the last eight months they have done everything I have asked of them with enthusiasm and style.
“They faced many challenges, including the weather and conditions, but they always got the job done. We have carried out training and taken part in many multi-national exercises with our allies and they have always given their best. It has been an honour to bring HMS Bangor back home.”
One crew member who got an especially warm welcome during the homecoming was 22-year-old William Brenton. No fewer than nine members of his family travelled from Shropshire to witness him step back on dry land.
His mother, Jaque William, said: “I have missed having him around so much as he is such good fun. We are having a big family meal on Sunday to celebrate his birthday which was on August 24 and which he spent in the Bay of Biscay.”
Since the current crew took over, HMS Bangor has covered some 11,900 nautical miles and has visited 18 ports in 14 different countries.
One of seven Sandown class mine hunters, Bangor is almost entirely made from non-magnetic materials, to counteract the threat from magnetic mines.
All of the class use the Seafox mine disposal system and have a highly-trained team of Royal Navy Clearance Divers who can descend to the seabed to place small explosive charges on ordnance.
Vessels typically spend three years on deployment in the Gulf with the crews rotating, flying out to meet the ship in the region.
Much of the UK’s energy and goods come from the area and the Royal Navy’s efforts are crucial in securing and protecting the vital sea lanes that carry them to us.
AB Josh Bertman proposes to Hazel Staunton on the dockside; Josh and Hazel; Maree and Matthew Stewart; William Brenton is given a warm welcome from him family; Leading Engineering Technician Brian Peacock, from Cumbernauld, with his son Aaron, five, and daughter Elisha, 13.