Families lined a jetty to welcome home sailors on board the Royal Navy survey ship HMS Enterprise as it arrived home in Plymouth after a 20-month operation.
About 100 cheering and banner waving people gave the crew a rapturous welcome at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth where the ship’s commanding officer thanked them for their support. Commander Jon Holmes, who was met by 15 of his family, including wife Janine and daughters Jasmine, 21, Megan, 20 and Imogen, 17, said: “It is a great welcome back at Devonport. The families’ support to us while we are away is very important. We have peace of mind that all is being looked after on the home front, confident and able to concentrate on being operationally effective.”
The oceanographic and hydrographic survey ship returned after sailing over 50,000 miles during her deployment, with her most recent operations over the last few months having surveyed an area the size of Dartmoor National Park. The deployment included West Africa, Arabian Gulf, Gibraltar, Oman and southern Red Sea.
Cdr Holmes, of east Cornwall, also praised his crew: “They have proved that they are operationally capable time and time again. We had a very successful deployment in a challenging part of the world in the Middle East where you have to be able to protect yourself against the possible threats. Therefore, we constantly exercise our responses to potential attacks and the consequences.”
Able Seaman Richard Walton, of Aylesbury, has just completed his training on board as a surveyor who monitors survey instruments and also has deck duties. He was welcomed by his sister Laura and father John. Richard said: “The deployment was really fulfilling, especially where we have been when it was very hard work. But you get to see the ultimate products, the charts that are produced and to know ships worldwide use them. It was definitely very hot out there. I am now fully trained and enjoy going to sea.’’ John said: “It is the first time I have seen him on a ship. I am very proud of him.’’
The ship has been producing defence–related data and material for maritime charts which can be used for civilian and military vessels to navigate. One major project was surveying for the Oman port of Duq’m, critical to Oman’s trade. The ship has been able to stay away for so long because the crew regularly changed with about two months on board at sea and one month on leave.
Cdr Holmes: “It is always special for a ship to return to her home base after a long period away. Our relief manning system allows us to operate in this way, but also allows the work to continue. After a short stay and change of half of the crew, we will be back to sea early next week for a maintenance period in Portsmouth.”
HMS Enterprise was launched in 2003. She operates a watch rotation manning regime, allowing her crew of 76 to regularly rotate with 50 personnel onboard at any one time. This class of warship is designed to provide the Royal Navy with modern hydrographic and oceanographic capabilities. This is provided by multi-beam echo sounders and an array of towed sensors for military data gathering.
Operating worldwide for HMS Enterprise and any warship is challenging, skills need to be maintained, and a continual process of training maintains the ship at an alert state. The nature of the job means the ship’s sensors are busy concurrently with this training collecting a wide range of environmental data.
After the maintenance work HMS Enterprise will undergo a programme of Flag Officer Sea Training at Plymouth to prepare for potential operations.