DOZENS of sailors have deployed to the Baltic on an explosive Nato mission to hunt out deadly Second World War mines.
Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Cattistock will spend the next seven weeks in the region as part of Nato fleet dedicated to keeping the waters of northern Europe free of historic ordnance.
Half a dozen vessels – Danish, German, Latvian, Norwegian and Belgian – are assigned to the force, currently led by the Danish Navy.
Cattistock’s divers and mine warfare specialists, trained to operate remote-controlled submersibles, will take the lead in the hunt for ordnance.
The team will also share its expertise with explosives with bomb disposal squads from across the globe.
Lieutenant Commander Claire Thompson, Cattistock’s captain, said: ‘We only returned from operations in the Gulf earlier in the year, so preparing has been hard work but the whole team are looking forward to visiting many new places, working with a number of different Nato nations and generally taking part in such a rewarding deployment.’
To prepare for the mission, Cattistock – the second oldest ship in the Royal Navy at 38, but with the latest minehunting systems crammed inside her plastic hull – left Portsmouth for Loch Goil, Scotland, for engineering trials before undergoing a fortnight of intensive training and assessment.
All Royal Navy ships deploying on front-line duties must pass Operational Sea Training – ‘pre-season training’ for warships. Frigates and larger are assessed off Plymouth; smaller vessels, irrespective of where they are based, head to western Scotland.
Cattistock is due back in Portsmouth in late November.