Royal Navy sailors from Portsmouth to spend Christmas defending the Gulf after leaving for Middle East mission

ROYAL Navy sailors from Portsmouth are gearing themselves up for a Christmas away from home as they tackle a new mission in the Gulf.

By Tom Cotterill
Saturday, 12th December 2020, 4:43 pm

A specialist team has flown from the city into the Gulf to take charge of minehunter HMS Chiddingfold for the next four months.

The sailors, from ‘Crew 1’ of Portsmouth’s 2nd mine countermeasures squadron, deployed after months of training – hampered by the tightened coronavirus restrictions.

Their arrival in the Middle East marks the first crew rotation since Chiddingfold left Portsmouth earlier this year.

HMS Chiddingfold ship's company pictured in the Gulf

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Lieutenant Commander Chris Sharp, commanding officer of Crew 1, took the team through their training and into theatre.

He said: ‘I’m incredibly proud of my ship’s company for pulling together during the tough pre-deployment training, generating a real team ethos and demonstrating what Crew 1 is capable of achieving.

‘This deployment will undoubtedly be both professionally and personally challenging for every single person on board, including me. But I believe in what we’re doing here, and I’m really proud of everyone for persevering through Covid to ensure we have all deployed safely and at the height of operational capability.’

Crew of HMS Chiddingfold firing a M134 Minigun during live fire training.

Replacing sister ship HMS Ledbury, Chiddingfold – affectionately named ‘Cheery Chid’ – is now stationed at the UK’s military base in Bahrain.

Her previous crew sailed the minehunter from Portsmouth, through the Suez Canal and into the Gulf.

Crew 1, nicknamed the Fighting Aces, have now taken up the mantle and are primed and ready for training and exercises.

Engineering Technician Charlie Ellis is a junior communications expert, who keeps Chiddingfold linked up to naval command and allied partners during operations.

HMS Chiddingfold coming alongside on completion of a Seafox run in Bahrain.

He said: ‘I like working with the US sailors – there’s only a few Royal Navy ships out here, but we work really hard to pull our weight and do our bit.

‘With Covid, we can’t get about as much as usual and there aren’t really any runs-ashore but the naval support facility in Bahrain is great and the deployment is a good opportunity to save money - I’m trying to buy my first house.

‘Although, it is the first time away from family for this long, which is tricky. The new dual-crew model is a great opportunity as we know exactly when we’ll be home and away.’

Chiddingfold’s main missing in the Gulf is to keep critical sea lanes in the region open for business.

Sailors on HMS Chiddingfold preparing to operate the 30mm Mark 44 Bushmaster gun during live fire training.

She’ll be based there for the next couple of years, with crews rotating every four months.

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Chiddingfold firing its automatic 30mm DS30M Mark 2 Naval Gun during live fire training.