The crew of HMS Middleton threw a ‘going away’ party for loved ones today before their ship left Portsmouth for a mammoth journey to the Gulf.
The minehunter is heading to Bahrain to replace her sister Atherstone, and will spent three years in the Middle East working with the UK’s allies as part of the RN’s permanent presence in the region.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Nicky Wilson
Sorry son, I’ll be away for Christmas…
AB(MW) Tom Rouse from Sherborne holds 16-month-old Finley just moments before HMS Middleton leaves Portsmouth, bound for the Gulf.
If you didn’t see the veteran minehunter leaving the Solent this morning – unlike the friends and family of the 45 crew who bade emotional farewells to loved ones – then you’ll have to wait until 2018 or maybe even early 2019.
Middleton is replacing her sister Atherstone which has completed a similar stint in Bahrain and is homeward-bound on the mammoth 7,500-mile sea journey (Suez is merely the half-way point).
A last kiss for AB(Diver) Nicholas Kavanagh and his girlfriend Amy Richmond.
Once the odyssey out is complete, she’ll join Chiddingfold, the other Hunt in theatre, and two Sandowns (Bangor and Penzance) as the cutting edge of the RN’s minehunting force permanent deployed in the Middle East (they’re supported by ‘mother ship’ RFA Cardigan Bay).
Before slipping away from the jetty in Portsmouth Naval Base, crew invited family and friends onboard to see for themselves what it’s like to live and work on the minehunter – and laid on a face painter and balloon modeller provided entertainment for little ones.
Luckily, young Finley (and the rest of the Middleton family) won’t have to wait three years to see dad again – for the ship’s company rotate roughly every six months, trading places with the crews of Hunts which patrol UK waters.
“I am really looking forward to the deployment. This will be my second trip to the Gulf and it will be nice to have the experience of being part of a team that has taken a minehunter all the way to Bahrain,” said Chef Alex ‘Tug’ Wilson.
The current incumbents of Middleton have been on board since the beginning of 2015 and have spent the year working up ready for lengthy journey out, followed by the challenges of mine warfare operations in the heat of the Gulf.
“Although it is sad to be leaving friends and family for deployment, having completed a substantial work-up and training period, we are looking forward to getting out and doing the job we are ready for,” said Middleton’s CO Lt Cdr Maryla Ingham.