One year to the day that they raised the NATO flag, the crew of HMS Enterprise lowered it – their mission as a Mediterranean flagship complete.
On a sizzling day in Souda Bay, Crete, the survey ship’s task leading a force of international minehunters formally ended as Britain handed over responsibility for the group – which roams from the Pillars of Hercules to eastern shore of the Black Sea – to the German Navy.
Temperatures reached 35˚C on the forecastle of the Devonport-based ship as NATO’s Maritime Commander Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone presided over the transfer of command.
For 365 days, Enterprise led Standing Mine Countermeasures Group Two, which flies the flag for NATO through the Middle and Black Seas, trains with the region’s navies – not just in the art of hunting mines, but disaster relief and search and rescue missions – and hones the ability of participating NATO forces to work seamlessly together.
With a battle staff under Commander Justin Haines embarked, Enterprise has directed six major exercises, visited 40 ports, helped locate four WW2-era mines, worked with scientists to further the use of unmanned technology in finding objects underwater, and worked with around a dozen NATO and foreign navies.
The demands placed on the ship’s company throughout have been heavy.
“Before we deployed, colleagues predicted a fantastic sunny Mediterranean ‘cruise’, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Surgeon Lieutenant Megan Adams, task force medical officer.
“H ard work and dedication was required by everyone involved – busy weeks at sea, in rough weather over the winter, and even busier weekends alongside. Everyone was pushed to their limits.”
Chelsea Dyson, one of Enterprise’s chefs, has thoroughly enjoyed the NATO experience.“I’ve been lucky to be involved with every defence engagement event over the past year – it’s been a great opportunity for me to develop my culinary skills,” she said.
“It’s been a great deployment too for seeing new places – places that I would never normally have had the chance to experience.”
Command of the mine warfare group is now with Fregattenkapitän Frank Maginsky and his flagship FGS Rhein, while Enterprise.
“It has been an immense privilege to command a multi-national task force with outstanding people at its heart,” said Cdr Haines as the NATO flag was passed to the Deutsche Marine.
“The relationships we forge between ships and during visits strengthen the alliance. We share the same goal – and as a team we are so much stronger.”
Enterprise is now preparing to return to the UK before the end of the month.