‘We had Gaddafi’s ships in our sights’

PATROL HMS Westminster off the coast of Libya
PATROL HMS Westminster off the coast of Libya
HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier leaves Portsmouth Naval Base for the first time on October 30. 

Picture: Malcolm Wells

HMS Queen Elizabeth due into Portsmouth next week

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THE captain of HMS Westminster has told how he was ready to open fire on Colonel Gaddafi’s gunboats – but did not have to pull the trigger.

That’s because just being off the coast of Libya was enough to keep the dictator’s warships holed up in port.

The Portsmouth-based frigate has stood down from operations in Libya after helping international forces establish a no-fly zone over the North African country.

The ship’s captain, Commander Tim Green, told The News his ship has been busy keeping tabs on Gaddafi’s warplanes and ships.

‘We had the rules of engagement that if those Gaddafi units set out from port we could engage them and destroy them,’ he said.

‘We were the muscle to back up the words of the UN resolution to make sure Gaddafi’s aircraft and warships did not leave their ports to harm the civilian population.’

In the end, Gaddafi’s besieged units stayed put and Westminster left the conflict without firing a single shot.

‘It was interesting work,’ Cdr Green said.

‘We were there in theatre. We were seeing the events you saw on the TV first hand.’

The ship docked in Malta to pick up supplies and will be back in Portsmouth before the end of next week.

Cdr Green said his sailors could have lasted longer than four weeks in the warzone.

‘We’ve done a cracking job. Had we been required to stay longer we could have done for several months,’ he said.

On her way home, Westminster will pass Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Liverpool which has been sent to Libya to help enforce the NATO naval blockade to stop arms reaching pro-Gaddafi forces in the country.