The Royal Navy’s HMS Enterprise returns home tomorrow [Tue 18 Apr 2017] after an epic 35-month deployment sailing across the globe and saving thousands of lives at sea.
In almost three years, she has steamed 150,000 nautical miles, visited 20 countries, and navigated four of the seven seas while conducting maritime security operations, protecting Britain’s economy and rescuing people in danger.
Enterprise was at the heart of operations to prevent people smuggling in the Mediterranean. She evacuated more than 200 British citizens from Libya, rescued 9,180 people attempting to undertake deadly crossings of the Mediterranean and destroyed 117 unseaworthy vessels used by people traffickers.
Minister of State for the Armed Forces Mike Penning said: “During her three years deployed away from the UK, HMS Enterprise and her ship’s company have helped make the world a safer place. From disrupting people smuggling in the Mediterranean to assisting in the free flow of trade in the Gulf, and from providing reassurance to our overseas territories to surveying the world’s oceans, she has epitomised how the Royal Navy is protecting the UK’s global interests.”
The ship, and her crew of 78 sailors, return to Devonport tomorrow for the warmest of welcomes from friends and families. The ship operates on a three-watch manning system, meaning two thirds of the ship’s company have been on board at any one time.
“The crew of HMS Enterprise are justly proud of the work they have done since deploying, and the wide variety of operations will be hard to match in the rest of our careers,” said Commander Philip Harper, the ship’s Commanding Officer.
“At the same time, we are all really looking forward to coming home. The results of our deployment speak for themselves and we are all eager to spend some time with our families before the ship deploys again later this year.”
HMS Enterprise’s deployment began in June 2014, when she headed to the Mediterranean on maritime security operations. At the time, growing unrest in Libya led to the UK government encouraging British citizens to evacuate, and Enterprise was tasked with rescuing more than 200 people from Tripoli.
She was then tasked with conducting survey operations in the Gulf and southern Red Sea, joining the continuous Royal Navy presence in the region which works to secure some of the most vital shipping lanes in the world and protect Britain’s economy.
Those on board had opportunities to visit 33 ports, including Goa in India and Port Victoria in the Seychelles. But there was still work to be done – teams from the ship volunteered to visit an orphanage in Goa, helping to refurbish several classrooms, build some swings and even fix a trampoline.
In 2015, Enterprise joined the naval force in the Mediterranean which was set up to deal with people smuggling in the region. Over the course of the following year, the sailors on board destroyed 117 unseaworthy craft and rescued 9,180 people attempting to make deadly crossings – the highest number of people ever to be rescued by a Royal Navy ship.
She also surveyed some 2,600nm2 of the ocean floor, was awarded the Firmin Sword of Peace, the Naval Capability Prize and the HM Efficiency Award, as well as receiving a personal commendation from the Chief of the Defence Staff.
The survey ship’s work in the Mediterranean also led to 20 suspected smuggling ringleaders being identified and subsequently arrested by Italian authorities.
Following the heat of the Mediterranean it was time for Enterprise to experience the South Atlantic, as she headed south to stand in for Falkland Islands patrol vessel HMS Clyde during her refit in South Africa.
“Having successfully mastered integrating with the Italians and other EU partners, the ship now had to integrate with the RAF and the Army,” said Navigating Officer Lieutenant Kyle O’Regan.
“A very busy time followed, conducting training with Typhoon aircraft, winching with Chinook helicopters and still managing to fit in some survey operations.”
The visit also allowed Enterprise to strike out for South Georgia, and after a choppy three-day journey across 800 miles of open sea, the ship’s company reached Gold Harbour.
Enterprise now nears UK waters at the end of her epic three-year deployment, but there is little time for the ship to rest up, as she deploys again in July this year.
The ship will enter Plymouth proudly flying an efficiency pennant – an award given to Enterprise in 2016 in recognition for her hard work. Enterprise has been granted special permission by Rear Admiral Alex Burton, the Royal Navy’s Commander UK Maritime Forces who first presented the ship with the award, to fly the pennant on her return home.