Brocklesby returns home from NATO deployment

Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Brocklesby returned home today (April 11) after two-and-a-half months deployed away from UK waters.

The small but highly capable ship left her home port in late January to some of the most horrific weather the UK has seen in a long time and sailed to meet the UK’s commitments to NATO in the Mediterranean.

Brocklesby has been working as part of a multinational maritime force called the Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).

Ships from allied nations operate together throughout the year defending sea routes from the threat of underwater mines and carrying out joint training exercises.

I didn’t really know what to expect of my first deployment but as diving is my passion, where better to consolidate my skills than in the Mediterranean?

Able Seaman Diver Ben Gaskell

“This has been a great deployment for us,” said Lieutenant Commander Gregg Powell, Executive Officer and second in command.

“Despite the bad weather at the start, working with our NATO partners is always a privilege and it’s given us a great opportunity to train in preparation for our deployment to the Gulf next year.”

The UK’s commitment to NATO operations in the Mediterranean is an important one, strengthening international partnerships while having a continuous capability to carry out occasional historic mine disposal and also to be a quick-reaction force, which was seen in 2011 when Brocklesby was sent to dispose of live mines off Libya.

Petty Officer (Mine Warfare) James ‘Soapy’ Watson said: “I was in this ship in 2011 off Libya and the quality of the training and allied integration hasn’t changed. We would be ready for any tasking that was given to us.”

On her latest deployment Brocklesby worked with two German ships and Italian and Greek minehunters.

The daily programme of the minehunter group concentrates on getting different nations’ navies to work together seamlessly. All operate different equipment and procedures but deployments like this reinforce the flexibility of the skilled crews and ability to adapt to different situations.

Able Seaman Diver Ben Gaskell said: “I didn’t really know what to expect of my first deployment but as diving is my passion, where better to consolidate my skills than in the Mediterranean? I have learnt a lot and enjoyed the work but it’s good to be home.”

At the end of the deployment when alongside in Gibraltar the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Ben Vickery, handed over his post to Lieutenant Commander John Cromie who sailed his ship in to Portsmouth for the first time today.

After 6,500 miles steamed the crew now go on leave before returning to work to begin high-tempo training ahead of the Gulf deployment next year.