Crew members get busy as they come alongside and Commanding Officer of HMS Blyth, Lt Cdr Peter Ellison and Senior Officers on the deck of HMS Blyth keep an eye on things from the bridge.
By Lucy Ashton
Clyde-based Royal Navy minehunter, HMS Blyth, returned home today to bright Easter sunshine on the Gareloch after completing two months of NATO duties in the Baltic.
The Faslane-based warship has spent the late winter/early spring attached to NATO’s dedicated mine warfare force patrolling northern European waters, Standing Group 1, carrying out combined training, dealing with wartime ordnance still blighting the Baltic, and generally flying the flag for the alliance.
During her two months with the NATO group, Blyth has sailed more than 4,000 miles, taken part in four multinational exercises, visited the Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Sweden and conducted training in Danish Waters.
The ship and Mine Counter Measures 1(MCM1) Crew 2 were welcomed back to the Naval Base by Captain of the Base, Captain Nick Gibbons and Captain Submarines, Captain Irvine Lindsay.
” As well as the Submarine Flotilla, HMNB Clyde is home to the Sandown Class Mine Counter Measure Vessels. These highly capable units continue to punch significantly above their weight,” said Captain Nick Gibbons
“Over the last 2 months, HMS Blyth has delivered cutting edge mine hunting, historic WW2 ordnance disposal, Maritime security, and international engagement alongside our NATO allies in the challenging waters of the North.
“As a family, we are delighted to welcome her crew back after a most successful deployment and send them off for a period of well-deserved leave”
Normally, there would also be families and friends of the crew waiting on the dockside to welcome their loved-ones home. However, due to current restrictions, reunions with families will happen when the crew members make their way home.
HMS Blyth sailed from Faslane at the beginning of February and joined the group comprising of flagship BNS Godetia (Belgium) and minehunters FGS Datteln (Germany) ENS Ugandi (formerly HMS Bridport now owned by Estonia) and Blyth.
All in one Covid-safe bubble, the group was able to train, socialise and play sport together during port visits – although sailors couldn’t go out and explore.
After being deployed for nearly 11 of the past 15 months in varying degrees of isolation, this was a welcome change for the crew and allowed them to host NATO friends onboard to show off their skills and drills and the specialist mine-hunting equipment available on a Sandown-class warship.
As well as live gunnery exercises off the Danish coast, the group conducted a hunt for historic ordnance and found two WW2-era mines partially buried in the seabed off Denmark, both of which were neutralised.
In Kiel, the minehunter forces joined a large force of 14 warships including vessels from Germany, Denmark, Latvia and Lithuania for several days of navigation training and seamanship exercises.
Captain Nick Gibbons and Captain Irvine Lindsay welcome Lt Cdr Peter Ellison and his crew back to the Naval Base at Faslane.
Before heading home, the NATO group sailed into the small Swedish port of Karlskrona where they took part in complex seamanship/force protection exercises with the Swedish Navy.
“Both the NATO group and the Swedish Navy worked well together and demonstrated their capabilities,” said Blyth’s navigator Lieutenant Conor Smith. “It was great to be hosted by Sweden in Karlskrona but also to operate with the Swedish Navy in a challenging exercise scenario.”
The ship has now arrived in HMNB Clyde, just in time for her 45-strong crew to enjoy some well-earned leave over the Easter break with loved ones.
“This deployment has helped to demonstrate the Royal Navy’s enduring commitment to NATO,” said the minehunter’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Peter Ellison.
“It has been a great opportunity to work with friends and allies, to learn from each other, and to support maritime security activity in the North and Baltic Seas.
“We would also like to thank friends and families for their continued support and perseverance during these unprecedented times.”