Battle staff forms to prepare for six month Gulf mission

Posing on the forecastle of HMS Hurworth are the men and women who will direct Britain’s mine mission in the Gulf from May.

Battle staff forms to prepare for six-month Gulf missionThe latest UK Mine Warfare Battle Staff formed up this week in Portsmouth, ready for a six-month tour of duty aboard RFA Cardigan Bay directing the day-to-day actions of up to four British minehunters, plus a specialist engineering team, Royal Navy divers and, at times, foreign dive teams and vessels.

The RN has maintained a permanent mine warfare presence in the Gulf for a dozen years, beginning with two ships and no staff, increasing to four vessels, then the addition of a mother ship and finally a permanent battle staff – around 500 people on any given day.

By the time Commander Ashley Spencer and his staff of 19 personnel (drawn from across the RN and coalition forces which operate in the Gulf) will have the new permanent facilities at HMS Jufair to fall back on.

Three months of training are required to turn the 20 men and women into a 20-strong team.

I am filled with confidence because I have a diverse and talented team who are training hard to maximise the collective mine counter-measures operational capability

Commander Ashley Spencer

Should they pass their validation test – directing minehunter movements during the fortnight-long Joint Warrior exercise in Scotland in April – the staff will head out to Bahrain in May.

“I am filled with confidence because I have a diverse and talented team who are training hard to maximise the collective mine counter-measures operational capability,” said Cdr Spencer.

“I confess that I’m occasionally envious of other partner nations’ technical capability, but I also know that sustained expeditionary mine warfare is not easy – the RN remains exemplary.”

Hurworth will also be Gulf bound as she replaces one of her sisters – Ledbury or Middleton – whose three-year stint in the Middle East is up.

She’s undergoing extensive training to hone minehunting skills as her sailors are either mine warfare novices, or spent most of last year conducting fishery protection duties.