ROYAL Navy minehunter HMS Shoreham returned to her home port on the Clyde after a three-year deployment to the Middle East.
The Sandown-class mine counter measures vessel left Scottish shores in 2018, making the 6,000-mile journey to the Gulf, where she was part of the UK’s enduring presence in the region along with fellow Royal Navy minehunter HMS Brocklesby.
While deployed, Shoreham helped keep important sea-lanes secure, ready to detect and neutralise underwater devices should anyone threaten the safe passage of merchant shipping.
The ships stay in the region but the crews rotate, with the current ship’s company -– Crew Five from MCM1 -– having spent 11 months deployed on operations in the last 15 months. Crew Five also had the task of sailing the 600-tonne ship home.
“I am incredibly proud of my ship’s company for the hard work and effort they have put into making this trip home a success,” said Lieutenant Commander Richard Kemp, commanding officer of HMS Shoreham.
“They have shown a fantastic ethos, especially during some challenging periods at sea. I now look forward to granting my ship’s company some well-deserved post-deployment leave before we continue operations in the UK.”
The journey home saw the crew conduct maritime security operations in more than seven seas and four vital maritime “choke points”, deterring both piracy and terrorism. Both HMS Shoreham and HMS Brocklesby also participated in Operation Sea Guardian, NATO’s maritime security mission in the Mediterranean.
There was the opportunity to engage with foreign navies to reinforce relations, including a sail past with the Italian Navy and manoeuvres with the Royal Saudi Naval Force.
Crew members had the chance to enjoy port visits and have some fun while at sea.
Able Seaman (Mine Warfare) James Kelters said: “This is my first sail back to the UK with a mine counter measures vessel, a highlight of my career so far. I particularly enjoyed working with foreign naval forces while on transit and enjoyed my first experience of a traditional Royal Navy ‘hands to bathe’ in the Red Sea.”
The order for “hands to bathe” is a long-standing naval tradition dating back centuries. In the days before washing facilities on board ships, captains would stop in calm areas of water and order the crew to take a cleansing dip in the sea.
Crew members also had port visits to Crete, Sardinia, Gibraltar and Porto, as well as the chance to enjoy a barbecue at sea north of Sicily where they watched volcano Mount Stromboli erupt.
The Royal Navy has had an enduring presence in the Middle East for around 15 years. Replacing HMS Shoreham in the area was fellow Faslane ship HMS Bangor, with HMS Middleton taking over from HMS Brocklesby.