The Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland returned to a rapturous greeting at its base-port of Plymouth today (Friday) after a successful patrol policing international shipping lanes in the Middle East.
More than 500 cheering friends and family members lined the jetty to welcome HMS Northumberland back to Devonport Naval Base marking the end of a successful seven-month patrol in the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Family attractions on the jetty included the Devonport Volunteer Band and balloon artist to entertain the waiting crowds while the ship sailed from Plymouth Sound into the docks and families had joyous reunions on the jetty.
Commander Tristram Kirkwood, captain of HMS Northumberland said: “I am immensely proud of my sailors. They have come together as a ship’s company magnificently, both during our demanding pre-deployment training and on operations to perform a multitude of diverse and challenging tasking. They have been a credit to HMS Northumberland, the Royal Navy and the UK amongst our coalition and regional partners and should feel justifiably proud of their achievements.”
Jonathan Boswell, 20, returned from his first deployment into the arms of his family from Doncaster. They included his girlfriend Debra, mother and father Pauline and Malcolm and his brother and sister Daniel, 13, and Olivier, 9.
Jonathan, an able seaman warfare specialist on board, said: “It’s fantastic to be home to see my family. It’s been a long deployment, but also exciting. This is my first deployment after passing into the Navy at HMS Raleigh in January. The trip has been everything I hoped for when I joined the Navy.’’
Jonathan’s mother said: “We’re all so pleased to see him and to know it all went well for him. He’s been through a lot as a youngster to be in the Navy – it’s all he wanted to do. At first he could not join the Navy because of his past medical history when he suffered from leukaemia. But he and we persevered with medical reports and he was accepted. This trip is a vindication of us and the Navy.’’
The ship has been engaged in a wide range of maritime security operations, including counter-piracy, counter -drugs, escort duties, boarding operations and international exercises, all designed to deter, disrupt illegal use of the sea to protect maritime security and secure freedom of navigation and trade for all nations.
Leading Hand Sarah Gaskell (communications specialist), who has been promoted to petty officer, ran into the arms of her friends from Plymouth. She said: “I’m so pleased to be back and see my friends again. It was a long and hard deployment. Next it’s my turn – I’m looking forward to seeing my partner on the jetty when she comes back from deployment on Exercise Cougar in HMS Bulwark.’’
Petty Officer Kristoph Goldsbrough (marine engineer), was greeted by his excited children Izabel, 3 and Ayden, 4. Kris said: “There’s nothing like your two children running towards you laughing and excited and scooping them into your arms – it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s been a challenging and rewarding deployment. I had an intensive job making sure the refridgeration plant worked well keeping everything cool and working on board in a hot climate. Now I’m looking forward to taking my son to school and restoring normal relations with my family.’’
His wife Zia said: “We’re all very pleased to see him, the children especially. It’s been hard work with the two of them on my own. But we’ll all be a proper family enjoying time together now.’’
During time in the theatre of operations HMS Northumberland’s boarding team has been a vital asset carrying out boardings of suspect vessels looking for illicit material such as narcotics or weapons, or vital intelligence to assist in the operation. These boardings usually last up to 12 hours.
Able Seaman (warfare specialist) Alice Haggett said: “As the only female member of the boarding team my primary role is to conduct a search of any women and children should there be any on board. Fortunately, during this deployment that wasn’t required. My other role requires me to search the vessel looking for anything that shouldn’t be there, for example weapons or drugs.’’
Lance Bombardier Ishan Raheim, attached to the Royal Marines boarding team, said: “As a military linguist my role is to relay any initial questions asked by the officer commanding the Royal Marines to the boarded vessel’s captain and to extract as much information and atmospherics as possible.
“Once the Royal Marines boarding party is happy with the initial searches on board and are satisfied the vessel is secure, they call the Royal Navy boarding team. I continue translating and gathering as much information as possible.’’
The Royal Marines boarding party conducted joint training with the US Marine Corps in Bahrain took part in an amphibious exercise into Kuwait, also with the US Marine Corps.
Following boarding operations HMS Northumberland conducted a joint anti-submarine warfare exercise with the US Navy. As a specialist anti-submarine warfare ship, Northumberland tested her formidable skills against UK and US submarines.
HMS Northumberland visited Gibraltar, Souda Bay in Crete, Bahrain, Dubai and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, Mumbai in India, Muscat in Oman, Malta and Lisbon.
The crew took part in flight-deck sports, BBQ and charity dinner nights which raised £5,000 for various ship’s charities while at sea. While in port, the ship’s football, hockey, netball, sailing and rugby teams tested themselves against local sides.
HMS Northumberland conducted 12 Straits of Hormuz transits, seven Bab-el-Mandeb transits and covered 38,000 miles over 201 days. The crew has eaten 4,000 kilograms of sausages, 40,000 eggs, 25,000 kilograms of meat, 40,000 kilograms of potatoes and consumed 12,000 litres of milk. The ship will now undergo a period of maintenance while the crew enjoy three week’s leave.