By Gavin Carr
Faslane-based mine hunter HMS Penzance has left her home port at HM Naval Base Clyde for a deployment to the Gulf.
The ship and her 40-strong crew from the First Mine Counter Measures Squadron (MCM1) set sail with the well-wishes of Naval Base personnel and fellow Royal Navy sailors who were at the dockside to wave them off.
The Sandown Class Mine Counter Measures Vessel is one of seven based at Faslane with MCM1. Although based at HM Naval Base Clyde, since December 2006, two have been forward deployed in the Gulf working with international partners to preserve peace and stability and ensure vital trade routes are protected.
HMS Penzance will relieve HMS Blyth which has been operating in the region for the past four years.
“I feel incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication that the crew and all the support organisations in Faslane have shown in getting Penzance ready to deploy,” said Lieutenant Commander Graeme Hazelwood, Commanding Officer of HMS Penzance.
“It has been a team effort across the enterprise and one made all the more challenging during the current coronavirus crisis.”
Usually departing mine hunters would be waved farewell by friends and family members. Sadly, the current situation meant that they could not be at Faslane for the departure. However Base staff and sailors across the Clyde Community were there at the jetty to provide a socially distant Bon Voyage.
MCM1 operates eight crews which rotate among the mine hunters. Sailing with Penzance and manning her for the next four months are Crew 3. For many of them it will be their first deployment with the Royal Navy.
One such is Mine Warfare Specialist Able Seaman Connor Hurst, who said: “This will be my first deployment and I’m very much looking forward to putting into practice on operations what I have learned over the last year.
“Mine Counter Measures Vessels have a long history of delivering success in the region and I look forward to becoming part of that.”
Up to now, Crews have spent around six-months with a vessel before “rotating” and being replaced by another MCM1 Crew. Crew 3 will be among the first to trial new arrangements whereby their tour will be shortened to four-months, offering sailors greater stability while also maintaining high levels of readiness.
HMS Penzance will meet up with Portsmouth-based Hunt Class mine hunter HMS Chiddingfold before heading to the Gulf where she will operate alongside their sister MCMVs – HM Ships Shoreham and Brocklesby – as well as Type 23 Frigate HMS Montrose.