HMS Diamond and Defender Complete Mammoth Mission

There was double delight for destroyers Defender and Diamond as the warships received a warm welcome from families after a landmark deployment.

The two ships sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base 60 minutes apart ­– and a few hours ahead of the nation’s flagship, aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which they accompanied for most of the past seven months.

The duo left the city in May, part of a nine-ship force – seven of them British – with the flagship at the centre on its maiden deployment to the Pacific Rim and back.

Both Type 45 warships formed part of the defensive ring of ships formed around the carrier, fulfilling their principal role, watching out for aerial threats.

But there were also opportunities at times to break away from the core task group and operate independently or with allies, such as Defender’s extremely high-profile patrol of the Black Sea in June.

“Being a part of this deployment has been hugely exciting and professionally rewarding,” said her Commanding Officer Commander Vince Owen.

“HMS Defender has delivered all the tasking required throughout. This has included providing air and missile defence to the Strike Group; upholding the international-rules-based system, particularly during our period in the Black Sea; and promoting Global Britain by operating with our allies and partners and conducting numerous defence engagement events.

“Our exceptional success on this deployment is down to the superb men and women that make up my ship’s company and I am immensely proud of the dedication and professionalism they have shown throughout. We are also heavily reliant on the support of our families for which I am incredibly grateful and I am delighted that we are able to return home to them today in time for Christmas.”

His ship has passed through three oceans and 13 seas, passing through eight of the world’s key maritime ‘choke points’ such as the Bosphorus, Suez Canal and Malacca Strait, and visited 12 ports in as many nations.

Defender escorted five aircraft carriers in addition to the UK flagship, worked with the military of 18 allied and partner nations and hosted 18 events to promote Britain’s global ambitions.

More than 4½ tonnes of mail, including over 1,850 parcels from home, were delivered to maintain morale.

And among other delights cooked up, her chefs served 55,000 sausages and ten tonnes of beans to their shipmates.

This was the first deployment for Communications and Information Systems specialist Callum Mountford.

“It has opened my eyes and given me the chance to see some of the world, which is one of the reasons I joined the Navy in the first place,” said the Engineering Technician.

“I’ve also learned a lot about what my job involves and have progressed to the next rate, so from both a personal and professional perspective the deployment has been great! I’m now looking forward to catching up with my family and friends and being home for Christmas.”

Diamond’s loved ones had to wait another 60 minutes for their ship to berth safely. Their ship also had the chance to shine away from the task group, playing the lead UK role with major Commonwealth powers in the large-scale exercise Bersama Gold off the Malay Peninsula in October.

She also had a key mission in support of Operation Shader – operations against Daesh in the Middle East. As well as warning of threats in the skies, the destroyer is also able to direct the operations of the carrier’s F-35 stealth fighters.

The deployment took Diamond further east – and south (including her first crossing of the Equator) – than ever before in her ten-year career.

“It has been a long but rewarding deployment, where we have achieved a huge amount as part of the Carrier Strike Group,” said Diamond’s Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Tom Leonard.

“We’ve taken HMS Diamond further east than she has ever gone before – all against a backdrop of Covid and other challenges.

“As always, the whole ship has dealt with everything that has been thrown at it with good humour and hard work, and I‘m incredibly proud of the team for everything they have achieved. I am really looking forward to spending time with my wife, kids and dogs over the festive period.”

Alex Simpson is the youngest sailor aboard Diamond. The chef was just 17 when the destroyer sailed (and has since turned 18).

“I have really missed my family and I’m glad to be home for Christmas,” Alex said.

“This is my first job, and first deployment with the Navy. It has been a rollercoaster but we have experienced loads, and I will always remember the crossing the line ceremony, and visiting places like Egypt, Diego Garcia, and Oman.”

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