SAILORS from a Portsmouth warship were reunited with their loved ones after almost eight months at sea.
The 45-strong ship’s company of HMS Middleton touched down at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, after finishing a tough deployment to the Gulf.
The crew brought Middleton out to theatre and it has been a wrench to leave her behind.Lieutenant Commander Milly Ingham
Middleton – which remains in the Gulf and has a replacement crew – left Portsmouth in November to join the navy’s mine countermeasures flotilla in Bahrain, protecting vital shipping lanes.
After a journey of almost 7,000 miles, the ship arrived in the Gulf just before Christmas, replacing sister ship HMS Atherstone.
During her deployment Middleton took part in a range of major training drills alongside the United Arab Emirates and the International Mine Counter Measures Exercise (IMCMEX) 16 – the world’s largest mine countermeasures exercise.
In a separate drill Middleton worked with sister ships HMS Bangor, Chiddingfold and Penzance, honing their skills and preparing the ship for long-term warm weather operations and training.
Able Seaman (Mine Warfare) Dylan Bonas was on his first deployment and said it was an amazing 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.’
Middleton’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander 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.’
Brocklesby is currently being refitted inside BAE Systems’ Small Ships Centre of Specialisation at the Portsmouth Naval Base.