Hundreds of jubilant families welcomed the Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth back to its base-port in HM Naval Base Devonport, today (Monday) from six months of operations.
More than 500 packed the jetty to mark the arrival of the Type 23 frigate after a successful maritime policing patrol engaged on fighting -piracy, smuggling and terrorism east of Suez.
The commanding officer Commander Dean Bassett: “We have had a very successful deployment and the key to this has been my ship’s company who have been outstanding in their professionalism and commitment. They are a credit to HMS Monmouth, the Royal Navy and their country. They all rose to the challenges of operating in a very active theatre of operations. But the biggest challenge was coping with the separation from families and loved ones who are left behind. It is therefore, fantastic to see hundreds of people lining the jetty waving and cheering as we came alongside.
“I would like to extend my personal thanks and that of my ship’s company to all the people who have given their support to us both before and during our deployment. Without the knowledge of and practical support given at home then providing operational effectiveness would be that much harder.”
The ship has patrolled a vast area (Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Somali Basin, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf) and worked with many other nations to counter terrorism, prevent smuggling and to disrupt and deter piracy. HMS Monmouth also took part in multi-national maritime exercises, working and training with other navies, and supporting UK strategic interests.
Petty Officer Stephen Slaney, 37, (weapons sonar specialist), of Dartmouth, was met at Devonport by five generations of his family ranging from his grandmother aged 88, to his children Calum, 3, Shane, 12, and Immarni, 8. He said: “It was a good deployment with top achievements being counter-piracy successes. I’m ecstatic to be back. The highlight was having my dad sail back from Gibraltar with other fathers on board as a goodwill gesture.” His wife Carmen said: “It’s fantastic to have him back. It has been a long trip. We’ve all missed him. He has arrived back in time to see Immarni’s ballet competition, having missed one, she is very excited. We hope this is his last time deployed at sea in his career.”
Leading Hand Joe Halliday (engineer) of Liverpool, was hugged by his fiancée Lynsey who was holding their son Dylan, aged 5 months, complete with a baby’s sailor suit and hat. Joe said: “It ‘s fantastic to see Dylan and the family again. I was allowed to fly home to see his birth, but he has changed so much already. He looks very healthy. We had an eventful deployment with hits against pirates.” Lynsey said: “Now is the time for Joe to take over night shifts at home and enjoy bonding with his new son.”
Leading Hand Gavin Smith, 30, was met by his fiancée Hayley, 24, of Plymouth, and their children Chloe, 6, and Riley, 18 months. Gavin said: “I’m really looking forward to spending time with my family. We did have some interesting port visits and it was my first time on a deployment when we have had direct engagement with pirates. It shows how important it is to have the navy out on these deployments.”
Since the ship arrived in the Middle East in April HMS Monmouth achieved notable successes on operations. On patrol HMS Monmouth closely scrutinised maritime activity and conducted boardings including direct engagement with pirated vessels. On one occasion the warship acted on intelligence from another warship and tracked and intercepted a pirate mothership (command vessel) in the Gulf of Aden. After exhausting the full range of warnings the pirates surrendered and Royal Marine and Royal Navy boarding teams boarded the pirate command vessel, successfully detaining several suspected pirates and releasing 17 hostages. HMS Monmouth stopped a mothership from being used by pirates for further attacks.
HMS Monmouth came to the aid of mariners in distress including urgent medical assistance for a sick sailor and aiding a merchant vessel under attack from armed men. In the latter case, HMS Monmouth made a high-speed approach from 90 miles away to help a 63,000-ton bulk carrier boarded by six armed men, where the 24 crew barricaded themselves in the ship’s citadel (a secure room onboard). The frigate’s boarding teams were sent across by boat and helicopter, to ensure the merchant vessel was clear of intruders (who had fled as the warship approached), releasing the ship’s crew from their refuge and allowing the vessel to proceed. The ship’s crew will have well earned leave after they return on duty.