The crew of the Devonport-based Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland sailed into their home port today for a long-awaited reunion with friends and families. The ship has been on deployment for the last 6 months on humanitarian duties and on the counter-piracy mission Operation Atalanta, as part of the European Union’s Naval Force.
HMS Northumberland was the first ship in this force to safely escort World Food Programme ships and had to be at high alert for long periods of time to stop the humanitarian aid from being taken by pirates operating in the region. During this period the ship escorted ships along the 1,500 mile length of the Somali coastline delivering food to the ports of Mogadishu , Boosaaso and Berbera.
When not on escort duties, the ship operated in the Gulf of Aden to ensure safe passage of merchant vessels by her presence and where appropriate, boarding of suspect vessels.
On their return, HMS Northumberland’s Commanding Officer, Commander Martin Simpson, said: “We had many successes in the Gulf of Aden on counter narcotics duties and general policing the sea to counter destabilising activities, basically anything illegal on the water.”
“Northumberland managed to ensure the delivery of 50,000 tonnes of food which was enough to feed 2.5 million people for one month. Delivering food aid was my proudest moment. I am especially proud of my ship’s company for the way they rose to the challenge, they responded magnificently.”
Leading Regulator Ken Stokes, from Bridgend, Wales , was surrounded by his family on the jetty as soon as he stepped on land. His son Ethan leapt into his arms and he also proudly showed off his second son Dylan who was born just after his ship left on deployment. Ken was expecting the birth and had to delay his departure and fly out to meet his ship in Mombassa when given permission to stay for the birth.
Ken said: “It’s great to see the family again, especially little Dylan because he’d just been born when I left. The deployment was very rewarding because we did the World Food Programme which was a very good cause. One of the non-operational highlights was spending Christmas and New Year in Dubai .”
Ken was also met by his wife Sarah, his mother Val and her daughters Jodie and Ceri and his mother-in-law Suzanne and her husband Brian, who were ‘overjoyed’ to see him again.
Lieutenant Dawn Chatterley, 30, of Nottingham , is the deputy logistics officer on board. She was met on the jetty by her parents Jacqueline and Arthur. Arthur said: “It’s lovely to have her back and she hasn’t changed a bit.”
Dawn said: “This is my second deployment. My first was with the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious when I was a rating. This was a special challenge and particularly rewarding. We were the first ship out in theatre for the World Food Aid Programme which meant we had to initiate the supply chain from scratch, which was where I was involved, being a logistics officer.
“The deployment was very fulfilling and a success. Other than that we had a fantastic time when not on duty. I learned to dive and gained my open water qualification in the Seychelles and we had ship’s barbecues and visited Eilat for four days. On the humanitarian side we also helped with an orphanage in Mombassa and my role was to paint pictures for the children on the walls.”
The ship will now enjoy four weeks leave.
HMS Northumberland is a Type 23 frigate built at Swan Hunter’s on the Tyne in North East England and launched in 1992. Although primarily an anti-submarine warship, the ship has a wide range of capabilities. Propelled by 2 Spey Gas turbines for sprinting, and 4 diesel engines for cruising speeds, displacing 4800 tonnes, she is 133 metres long with a top speed of approximately 28 knots and is armed with a variety of missile, torpedo and gun systems.