By Rory Murphy

SIX MONTHS of demanding operations in punishing temperatures and challenging conditions are over for the crew of Faslane-based HMS Shoreham who are gearing up to return home to Scotland.

A combined exercise with three of the Royal Navy’s five other vessels based in the Gulf brought the curtain down on the 45 sailor’s tour of duty onboard the minehunter.

The Royal Navy rotates its crews through its four minehunters based in Bahrain, with sailors spending four to six months in the Gulf before trading with a crew from the UK.

Crew 5 from the Faslane-based First Mine Countermeasures Squadron took charge of Shoreham – after a period of quarantine due to Covid measures – in late July, with temperatures regularly topping 45°C and high humidity, making for exhausting conditions on deck, and testing onboard air conditioning and cooling systems to the limit.

The crew had the challenge of a double engine change and dry docking for work on the hull, regular patrols as part of the international effort to keep trade moving freely in the region, and exercises to ensure the mine warfare team remained on top of their game.

The largest exercise took place just before Christmas when Shoreham joined an Anglo-American force for the first naval operation alongside the Kuwaiti Navy since the beginning of the pandemic.

Christmas was spent alongside the UK’s Naval Support Facility in Bahrain and, although,  there was a few days to enjoy adventurous training in the kingdom, the tempo for Shoreham rarely slackened.

Her last major test was working alongside frigate HMS Montrose as part of a test of the Royal Navy’s Bahrain-based force, working together to protect UK interests from any threats above or below the waves.

Crew 5’s Marine Engineering Department was recognised by the Senior Naval Engineering Officer in his annual commendations and there were also visits from the US Nay’s senior officer in the Middle East, Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Samuel J. Paparo as well as the UK’s Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter.

“This has been my first deployment and I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it,” said Sub Lieutenant Samuel Charleston, assistant to HMS Shoreham’s Executive Officer.

“Highlights for me include watching the 30mm firing and joining the Dive Team in the seaboat.  I’ve had a chance to develop myself both professionally and personally.

“Despite not being able to leave the base, the crew have managed to make their own fun.  I’m still looking forward to going home though!”

He and his shipmates are handing over to the First Mine Countermeasures Squadron’s Crew 7 before returning to the UK for some well-earned leave.  Later this year they will go through a re-generation process ahead of returning to the Gulf.

UK vessels operating in the Gulf.  From top to bottom: HMS Montrose, HMS Penzance, HMS Shoreham and HMS Brocklesby. Top of page:  The crew of HMS Shoreham – in punishing temperatures and challenging conditions are over.

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