February 10, 2021 – After the heat of the Gulf, it’s the cool waters of northern Europe for the next few months for HMS Blyth which is joining a NATO task group.
The hi-tech minehunter has left her native Clyde to take her place with a small force of like-minded warships from across the alliance: Standing Mine Countermeasures Group One.
The group divides its time between dealing with the leftovers of 20th Century conflict and ensuring they are ready to keep sea lanes open in the event of a modern-day clash.
Blyth completed a 6,500 nautical mile voyage home from the Gulf last summer and underwent an extensive maintenance period through the autumn and winter after her three years in the punishing heat/sand/dust of the Middle East.
Operated by Crew 2 of Faslane’s 1st Mine Countermeasures Squadron – the same sailors who brought the ship back from the Gulf – Blyth has bags of valuable experience to bring to a naval group which Royal Navy minehunters regularly join.
The pandemic has made the last few months of preparation challenging but Crew 2 persevered and came through a demanding assessment from the Fleet Operational Sea Training team for the NATO deployment with flying colors.
The ship’s company were tested in skills as varied as minehunting, diving, weaponry, damage control and navigation to ensure both the ship and her crew are in the best possible position to respond to any tasking that comes her way while with the group.
One highlight was the 30mm firing conducted in the Firth of Clyde. “I always enjoy firing the 30mm. It’s an excellent weapon and it really leaves you in awe. The FOST Staff also provided some really useful pointers that have definitely sharpened up our skills prior to deploying,” said mine warfare specialist Able Seaman ‘Ralph’ Wigham.
Both the marine and weapons engineering departments put in countless hours to keep everything running correctly, rectify defects and ensure the ship was ready – living up to the reputation built up over the past year which has earned them several Herbert Lott awards for their efficiency.
“HMS Blyth is once again ready for operations and we are all looking forward to working with our NATO allies and helping to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to the alliance,” said Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Peter Ellison. “The program provides a great balance of operational tasking and opportunities to share knowledge and learn from our international friends and allies. We are truly stronger together.”
Blyth is making her way to link-up with the Dutch-led force which, most recently, has been operating in the North Sea.
The group’s remit stretches from the Baltic to Atlantic, ensuring that mines old or new do not interrupt shipping and championing the peacekeeping efforts of the alliance.