The Saint comes marching in

HMS St Albans returned to a rapturous welcome in Portsmouth today (Friday 5 August) following a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

Hundreds of friends and families lined the Naval Base as the Type 23 frigate returned from the Gulf where she joined the US and French navies in the fight against Daesh.

‘The Saint’ sailed more than 38,000 miles on Operation Kipion working with carrier task groups, hosting key defence and diplomatic engagements and conducting operations to counter narcotics and weapon smuggling.

Days into her deployment she achieved her first success by seizing 320kg of cannabis with an estimated value of £1m which was destined for European markets.

In the Gulf St Albans and her 220 crew integrated into two separate French and United States aircraft carrier strike groups.

She worked alongside the carrier FS Charles de Gaulle following the terrorist attacks in Paris and later the giant USS Harry S Truman. Both carriers were conducting air strikes into Syria and Iraq.

St Albans has visited ports in ten different countries and worked with a multitude of international partners on live operations and exercises. Exercise Khundjar Hadd involved training alongside the Royal Navy and Air Force of Oman, US Coastguard, US Navy ships and fellow RN mine countermeasures vessels in one of the Gulf’s largest multi-national naval exercises. 

Our families and friends have given us superb support. It’s now our chance to be re-united and show our gratitude.

Commander Richard Hutchings, Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans

Earlier this year the ship came to the rescue of two Pakistani fishermen whose vessel had lost power and was slowly sinking. The ship’s engineers were unable to repair the stricken craft so both fishermen were safely returned to Pakistan.

A specialist embarked detachment of Royal Marines from 43 Commando conducted numerous boardings of suspicious vessels, working closely with the ship’s own boarding team.

They were supported by the flight team from 829 Squadron and their new Merlin Mk 2 helicopter whose state-of-the-art sensors have given St Albans a major advantage in detecting and identifying suspicious vessels, helping disrupt the flow of illegal goods in the region.

Away from security operations St Albans has conducted key defence engagements from Kuwait to Algeria, promoting the United Kingdom and British foreign policy abroad.

For many of the ship’s company, the deployment was their first on operations, including Able Seaman Sea Specialist Kieran O’Hara.

She said: “It’s been good to put all of our training from the past year into practice for real. The highlight of the deployment for me has been working with the USS Harry S Truman carrier strike group and supporting their operations. It’s been a long trip with lots of hard work, so it will be really good to get home and see my family again.”

St Albans’ Commanding Officer, Commander Richard Hutchings, said: “I am immensely proud of my ship’s company and our achievements. Together we have been tested on operations and proved ourselves repeatedly in a demanding area of the world where Britain’s reputation is strong. Our families and friends have given us superb support. It’s now our chance to be re-united and show our gratitude.”