Royal Navy's oldest sea-going warship 'days away' from return to Portsmouth after three years in the Gulf
AFTER three years defending critical shipping lanes in the Gulf, Britain’s oldest sea-going warship is just days away from returning to her home in Portsmouth.
Minehunter HMS Ledbury is almost at the end of her 6,000-mile journey home after more than 1,000 days away from UK shores.
The Hunt-class ship left Bahrain in July, accompanied by Faslane-based minehunter HMS Blyth.
Together, the trusty pair of vessels have been forward-deployed in the Gulf since 2017, with their two crews rotating every few months.
Lieutenant Commander Matt Ellicott, commanding officer of Ledbury, said: ‘It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail the oldest sea-going ship in the Royal Navy from Bahrain to the UK after three years deployed conducting vital operations in the Middle East.
‘A proud crew have completed a highly successful eight-month deployment in the Middle East against a backdrop of high regional tensions. Add to this the challenge of maintaining operations during a global pandemic.
‘This is a hugely commendable effort and testament to our people.’
Glass-hulled Ledbury is the first of the Hunt-class minehunters, and was commissioned in June 1981. She is home to 47 crew members.
The 685-tonne vessel is being guided home by Second Mine Counter Measure Squadron (MCM2) Crew 2, who spent 116 days at sea, with their anti-mine marine drone Seafox carrying out 57 missions and 88 dives carried out by the ship's clearance diving teams.
The crew, who arrived on board in January, also took part in the multi-national exercise Khunjar Hadd, Arabic for ‘Sharp Dagger’.
Ledbury was joined by RFA Cardigan Bay, HMS Shoreham and HMS Brocklesby for the ordnance disposal exercise with US, French and Omani navies.
In March, Ledbury’s crew had to adapt quickly when restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic were introduced.
For the sailors it meant staying within the base when alongside at the UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain or on board the ship when visiting other ports.
During this time, Ledbury received 117 bags of morale-boosting mail.
The vessel also joined other nations for Combined Task Forces 152 and 150, maritime security operations in the Gulf and the wider region, and worked with the US Navy.
In July, the Ledbury and Blyth started their epic trip home, accompanied by HMS Montrose through the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb Straits.
High seas and 60 knot winds made for a difficult pass near Oman and Yemen before the ships sailed through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.
While in the region, they supported Nato maritime security operation, before making their last port stop in Gibraltar.
The ships sailed from the British-owned peninsula last week on their final leg to the UK. They are expected home in a matter of days.
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