AS HIS family sits down to Christmas dinner in Portsmouth, Richard Hutchings will be working thousands of miles away.
The 37-year-old naval officer, from Farlington, is captain of the minehunter HMS Pembroke, which is based in Bahrain.
The Lieutenant Commander has a crew of nearly 40 under his command, and he will be trying to make Christmas Day as normal as possible.
He said: ‘We have been working hard but we still try to make time for a proper celebration. There will be a group meal and opportunities for people to relax, which is what they deserve.’
HMS Pembroke is one of four minehunters based in Bahrain. They practise in the shallow, warm waters which are difficult for the sonar the ships use to hunt mines. The skills they learn there helped HMS Brocklesby and Bangor find and destroy mines laid by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime off Libya this year.
Lt Cdr Hutchings said: ‘As a commanding officer you find two reactions when you are away at Christmas. You get some people who just want to forget about Christmas while others are very keen to celebrate it.
‘Overall it’s very positive to have something different from work and it allows people to reflect on the hard work they are doing.’