Beginning life as a forty-something is minehunter HMS Middleton, one of a handful of warships to reach the milestone while on active service.
Crew took a brief break from exercising with the Hunt-class ship in the Gulf to invite friends and international comrades to join them to celebrate the warship’s longevity.
Most warships have a lifespan of 25-30 years, but thanks to their fiberglass hulls, minehunters can last much longer – as long as the kit aboard is maintained to the highest standard, refitted, and replaced to move with the times… which it is.
Middleton is the first Hunt-class ship to be fitted with Oceanographic Reconnaissance Combat Architecture (ORCA), allowing the ship to classify underwater contacts from a greater distance than was previously possible. Coupled with her 2193 Sonar, SeaFox Mine Disposal System, and highly-trained mine clearance divers, she remains at the leading edge of mine warfare.
Currently home to 40-plus men and women of Crew 4 from 2nd Mine Counter-measures Squadron – the ship’s company rotates every few months with counterparts based in Portsmouth to sustain the long-standing mission in the Gulf – they determined the milestone was, rightly, worth celebrating.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Gemma Britton and her team invited personnel from the Naval Support Facility in Bahrain – vital to ensuring the ship receives the supplies, maintenance and general support required to sustain her mission in the Middle East – plus comrades from the US Navy to join them aboard as a thank-you for their continuing help, guidance and commitment.
They enjoyed a spot of British afternoon tea with, naturally, a very large birthday cake… which evidently didn’t fill stomachs entirely as it was followed by a whole-ship barbecue for the minehunter’s crew to enjoy in the Gulf heat, sharing stories and memories of their time onboard.
And what stories and memories: since entering the Clyde from the slipway at the Yarrow yard in Scotstoun (now operated by BAE), the ship has sailed more than 430,000 nautical miles – the equivalent of twenty times around the equator – during 75,000 hours at sea (that’s 446 weeks, or 8½ years).
She has hosted His Majesty the King (before he was monarch); taken part in Fleet Reviews; given tours to sporting stars such as Sir Lewis Hamilton (who likes to move faster than Middleton’s leisurely 17 knots); and, in 1995, had the privilege of leading the First and Second Mine Counter-measures and the Fishery Protection Squadrons out of Rosyth when the Naval Base on the Forth closed.
“As HMS Middleton’s fortieth Commanding Officer, celebrating 40 years since the ship was launched, I am delighted that we have been able to recognize all of the ship’s achievements and those of the people who have served in her,” said Lieutenant Commander Britton.
Middleton is the fourth ship in her class to reach the 40-year milestone; her Portsmouth-based sister HMS Ledbury is the oldest active vessel in the Fleet (launched in 1979, commissioned in 1981).
As HMS Middleton’s fortieth Commanding Officer, celebrating 40 years since the ship was launched, I am delighted that we have been able to recognize all of the ship’s achievements and those of the people who have served in her.