August 20, 2021 – Homeward bound on a 6,000-mile journey from the Gulf after a three-year mission to keep sea lanes open are minehunters HMS Brocklesby and Shoreham.
The pair are the latest ships to complete an extended stint in Bahrain – a mission Royal Navy minehunters and their crews have conducted now for 15 years.
Their task: to remain at the top of their game, ready to locate and neutralize underwater devices should anyone try to threaten the safe passage of merchant shipping in a part of the world key to the UK’s economy and interests.
In addition, they frequently work alongside Britain’s allies and partner nations in the region supporting wider regional security, honing their ability to work seamlessly with other navies, and flying the flag for the UK at international events.
And with one eye on the future, Brocklesby played a key role in the development of the latest autonomous systems, likely to replace the current generation of ships, whilst Shoreham’s previous crew returned home to Scotland to begin conversion to the Royal Navy’s new autonomous Mine Hunting Capability.
Three years almost to the day that the duo arrived in the Gulf, they departed the UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain in company with praise from the Royal Navy’s senior officer in the region ringing in sailors’ ears.
“HMS Brocklesby and HMS Shoreham have done a tremendous job over the course of their three years in the Gulf, protecting global shipping from underwater threats,” said Commodore Ed Ahlgren, UK Maritime Component Commander.
“These ships have been crewed by many hands over that time, always with the highest levels of skills and professionalism, their operational success is testament to the quality of the Royal Navy’s world-class minehunting community.
“As they pull away from the jetty for the last time, we wish them god speed and fair winds as they begin their journey back to the UK.”
To give an idea of how busy these small but key warships are, Brocklesby alone has sailed 150,000 nautical miles, completed six crew changes (all 40+ sailors trade places with UK-based counterparts roughly every six months) and taken part in 18 operations and exercises.
“Brocklesby has been home to just over 190 sailors in her time out here and been a real driving force in providing a forward presence, trialling autonomous systems, as well as delivering a mine-hunting contingency capability,” said Lieutenant Commander Dan Lee who’s bringing the ship home to Portsmouth with Crew 6 from the city’s 2nd Mine Countermeasures Squadron.
Faslane beckons for Shoreham. “It has been a great experience to operate out here, and I’m grateful to everyone who has supported us throughout,” said Lieutenant Commander Rich Kemp, in charge of Crew 5 1st Mine Countermeasures Squadron.
On the way home the two ships will meet up with their replacements – HMS Middleton for Brocklesby, HMS Bangor for Shoreham – for a formal handover of kit and sharing of information and tips.
Once the two UK-bound ships reach home they’ll undergo a period of maintenance before rejoining the fleet in 2022.