The Royal Navy survey ship HMS Enterprise returned to Plymouth to a noisy and colourful welcome from families after nine months away from home waters.
The deep water hydrographic and oceanographic ship arrived at HM Naval Base Devonport from the Middle East to a joyful reception on the jetty after a successful patrol.
A crowd of happy families and friends cheered and waved children’s balloon sculptures and homemade banners bearing greetings such as ‘Welcome home daddy’ as the ship tied up in HM Naval Base, Devonport. The sailors poured off the ship to be greeted by outstretched arms of their loved ones as they were reunited with children, partners and newly-born babies
Lieutenant Francesca Crowsley, Officer of the Watch, from Carlton, Bedfordshire, was greeted by her parents Wendy and Stephen, partner Nick and friend Jenny. She said: “It’s been an interesting deployment, especially when we found two wrecks in Dubai and therefore, had to re-chart the area. We also had a short-notice tasking in Gibraltar on the way back to the UK. This deployment has been a ‘work experience’ period for me on board and therefore, doubly rewarding. I will now go and do job-specific training for a career in survey ships.’’
Francesca, who studied oceanography at Southampton University, said: “I’ve been looking forward to seeing my family again and it’s lovely to see them waiting for me. The weather was very hot and at least it isn’t raining.’’
Her partner Nick, a trainer with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm at RAF Cranwell, said: “I’m delighted Francesca’s back. We’ll now have a short break away. I think she just wants to have a quiet time for a while.’’
Jenny, of Plymouth, said: “I’m really pleased to see Francesca again. I knew her when we were students at university and saw her when she was training as an officer at Dartmouth College. She’s doing well in her career.’’
Commander Derek Rae, HMS Enterprise commanding officer, of Midhurst, Sussex, thanked the families: “I must say it is very uplifting to see the families cheering us back in Plymouth, including five new babies for five fathers from the ship’s company. They are owed a lot of gratitude from the Navy because without their support back home looking after the children and keeping the home going we could not go about our work.’’
He said as well as charting the seas the survey ship was firstly a warship and acted as a deterrent to illegal use of the sea: “We’ve been gathering oceanographic and hydrographic data for merchant mariners and for military use in the Gulf on what has been a successful deployment. But first and foremost we are a Royal Naval warship and where we operated there is pirate activity. We were therefore, able to reassure merchant ships by our mere presence that the Royal Navy was acting in their interests and that we mean business if they needed us.’’
Leading Seaman (hydrography) Mark Reynolds, of Coventry, was nearly rushed off his feet by his family when he stepped off the ship. His children Phoebe, 7, and Ethan, 5, dropped their welcome banner and were first to hug their father. Phoebe is keen for him to watch her swimming and Ethan is looking forward to cycling and his birthday with his dad.
Waiting with their new daughter Theia, 12 weeks, was his wife Amy. As he cradled Theia Mark said: “It was a good deployment, but I’m so happy to be back, especially to see Theia – I last saw her when she was three weeks old and now she’s double the size and so cute. I came back for her birth and flew back to the ship which was a fantastic experience. Now I want to see her grow and Ethan’s got his birthday coming up and Phoebe’s done her latest swimming certificate. I’m now very keen on sleeping in a bigger bed and having home-made food and having some normal family life.’’
Amy said: “This is a special day – having Mark back and I’m hoping we can have a normal life for a while with him, for him to see Theia growing fast, while Phoebe wants him to see her improving swimming.’’
Mark’s mother Angela, from the Wirral, said: “I always get very excited on these occasions. I think I embarrass him shouting at the ship louder than anyone else. I never get used to them coming back, even though my other daughter is also a navy medical assistant at Lympstone and my other son is joining the Navy soon.’’
Early in the ship’s deployment HMS Enterprise made a significant impact on navigational safety by discovering two uncharted wrecks within Dubai’s Port Rashid Harbour. The ship boasts state-of-the-art underwater survey suites enabling it to collect enough accurate data to maintain an up-to-date collection of the Admiralty’s 3,300 nautical charts worldwide which are used by seafarers of all nations. In the main survey ground of the Red Sea the ship’s surveying revealed the natural wonder of a Grand Canyon-style ocean floor hidden in the deep, producing a series of stunning images from under the waves.
In its time away, the ship surveyed over 1,220km2, or the equivalent of 170,000 football pitches. Whilst gathering this vast quantity of ocean seabed data, five new onboard fathers were created. One new father Leading Seaman Burt Reynolds said his daughter’s birth was late after he arrived home from the other side of the world: “The ship flew me back once my wife went into hospital, but despite that my daughter still decided to be six days adrift!’’
As part of its programme of visits in the region the ship sailed into the lesser known Egyptian harbour of Safaga to help strengthen the Royal Navy’s relationship with the Egyptian Navy and allowed the crew to gain a better understanding of the host nation and joint ways of working. The visit also allowed the two navies to meet on the football pitch. The ship also hosted Omani navy officers on board.