DOZENS of sailors are due to begin defending sea routes in the Mediterranean on a four-month deployment.
Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Ledbury sails on Tuesday for a Nato mission.
She joins a permanent force which works throughout the year defending sea routes from underwater mines and carrying out joint training exercises.
HMS Ledbury knows the waters of the Mediterranean well, having been deployed there for six months last year.
Her 42 sailors returned to Portsmouth four months ago having served on board HMS Atherstone in the Arabian Gulf.
Lieutenant Commander Justin Hains is the commanding officer of HMS Ledbury.
He said: ‘I’m delighted to lead my crew on deployment again.
‘Having transisted through the Mediterranean en route to the Arabian Gulf only last year, my crew is prepared to meet the challenges ahead.
‘The ships are operating at a high operational tempo but continuous maintenance and improvements to the weapon systems on board are keeping HMS Ledbury and the Royal Navy at the forefront of mine countermeasures capability worldwide.’
On Sunday, HMS Cattistock returns to Portsmouth after spending three months at sea doing the same mission.
Both HMS Cattistock and HMS Ledbury are part of the Portsmouth-based Second Mine
Lieutenant Commander Stephen Higham, the commanding officer of HMS Cattistock, said: ‘Our return home to Portsmouth marks the end of a challenging period for the Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron Crew 2.
‘Deployed for 12 months over the last 16, this has been a difficult time for families and friends.
‘However, I know they share my pride in what Crew 2 has achieved conducting missions across the military spectrum.’
Before returning to Portsmouth, the minehunter will call in at Poole today to be near her namesake village, Cattistock. The Hunt-class minehunter is expected to arrive in Portsmouth on Sunday. She will pass the Round Tower at around 3.30pm.