The crew of HMS Middleton are back in the UK after seven-and-a-half months on minehunting and security operations in the Gulf.
The 45 sailors touched down at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where they were reunited with families and friends this week.
HMS Middleton – which is remaining in theatre and has a replacement crew – left Portsmouth in November to join the Navy’s mine countermeasures flotilla in Bahrain which maintains strategically important maritime trade routes in the region.
After a journey of almost 7,000 miles the ship arrived in Bahrain just before Christmas, replacing sister ship HMS Atherstone.
Middleton took part in a varied programme of exercises including bilateral training with the United Arab Emirates and the International Mine Counter Measures Exercise (IMCMEX) 16 – the world’s largest mine countermeasures exercise.
IMCMEX, in April, allowed the crew to further acclimatise Middleton’s systems ahead of the punishing Gulf summer and provided an exciting opportunity to work closely with the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces.
In a separate exercise they worked with fellow Royal Navy minehunters HMS Bangor, Chiddingfold and Penzance, honing their expertise and preparing the ship for long-term warm weather operations and training.
But it wasn’t all work and no play for the ship’s company. In Muscat, Oman, they enjoyed a week of adventurous training which included kayaking, hiking and paddle-boarding.
And in Dubai they made the most of two ship maintenance breaks which allowed families to visit during ‘CO’s Weeks’ designed to help refresh the crew after high-tempo operations.
Able Seaman (Mine Warfare) Dylan Bonas was on his first deployment and said he found it a positive experience. “I really enjoyed seeing various parts of the world on our transit out to the Gulf and thought it was a great experience to interact with other navies and see how they work. I’m really excited to get back out and do it all again.”
HMS Middleton’s Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Milly Ingham, added: “The crew brought Middleton out to theatre and it has been a wrench to leave her behind. The team have worked incredibly hard over the deployment and are now looking forward to some well-earned leave with their families before joining HMS Brocklesby.”