HMS Atherstone returns home after more than three years in the Gulf

HMS Atherstone returned to Portsmouth just in time for Christmas today (23 December) after more than three years on security operations in the Gulf.

The minehunter had been based in Bahrain for three years and seven months, with her current crew of 45 taking over in July this year.

She covered 51,220 nautical miles, conducted more than 8,630 hours of operational tasking and visited 12 countries across three continents.

HMS Atherstone sailed from Portsmouth in May 2012 to help ensure security and stability in an area that contains three of the world’s six maritime chokepoints.

Four UK minehunters work with regional allies and international organisations to help promote partnerships and improve the global community’s ability to maintain freedom of navigation in one of the world’s busiest areas of water.

Arriving home in time for Christmas is obviously a huge bonus and my crew can now enjoy some well-earned rest and leave

Lieutenant Commander Mark Headley, Commanding Officer HMS Atherstone

Atherstone’s role included conducting route surveys, sea-bed clearance and mine clearance operations throughout the Gulf region to protect busy shipping lanes. She also provided a visible Naval presence in an area which supplies much of the UK’s oil and gas and therefore vital to the country’s economy.

Her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mark Headley, said: “Our homecoming is a fantastic finale to a highly successful six months deployed upholding the UK’s reputation of operating some of the finest front-line mine warfare forces in the world, together with building partner capabilities and reassuring other nations. 

“To bring HMS Atherstone back to Portsmouth three years and seven months after she set sail for deployment is a rare privilege within the mine countermeasures community.

“Arriving home in time for Christmas is obviously a huge bonus and my crew can now enjoy some well-earned rest and leave.”