Christmas cheer for Kent as frigate completes Gulf mission

There were cheers, tears and at least one proposal of marriage as HMS Kent returned home to Portsmouth today.

A four-month stint guarding shipping entering and leaving the Gulf ended – and with it a hectic 2019 for the frigate – when she came alongside the naval base’s South Railway Jetty, where well over 200 friends and family were waiting on a blustery, grey December day to be reunited with their loved ones.

Second down the gangway behind the frigate’s Commanding Officer Commander Andrew Brown was Leading Engineering Technician Jordan Andrews.

The leading seaman from North End in Portsmouth claimed he’d won a raffle to get ahead of his shipmates…

…But on the jetty, to the applause of the rest of the 200-strong ship’s company, he got down on his knee, whipped out a ring he’d purchased in Dubai, and asked his long-term girlfriend Charlotte Winsor, a nurse at the city’s Queen Alexandra Hospital, to marry him.

“Proposing today was always part of the plan – I thought I would make the most of the homecoming. I’m so pleased she said yes!” said an emotional Jordan.

Having clocked up 46,100 miles at sea in 2019 and guided his ship into and out of 17 ports, Commander Brown was delighted his men and women could finally enjoy some rest, mission accomplished.

“I could not be prouder of the ship’s company who have all repeatedly risen to every challenge presented to them and I wish them and all their friends and families a happy Christmas with their loved ones,” he said.

I could not be prouder of the ship’s company who have all repeatedly risen to every challenge presented to them and I wish them and all their friends and families a happy Christmas with their loved ones

Commanding Officer Commander Andrew Brown

“HMS Kent has had a very busy year which started in Plymouth with a six-week training package to prepare the ship for operations.

“Eleven months later we have returned from operations in the Gulf supporting UK prosperity and demonstrating once again the Royal Navy’s global presence.”

The spell in the Middle East was partially spent patrolling the Indian Ocean in support of maritime security/counter-terrorism operations.

But the bulk of her time was spent assisting merchant shipping through the Strait of Hormuz – gateway to/exit from the Gulf – to prevent any untoward interference to vessels.

Kent carried out 28 passages of the narrow waters, accompanying nearly two million tonnes of merchant traffic, including tankers, container ships and liquid natural gas carriers, as part of a concerted effort by the Royal Navy to ensure the safe passage of shipping and free flow of trade in the region.

The frigate was assisted by her sister HMS Montrose and destroyers HMS Defender – both still on operations in the Middle East – and HMS Duncan, which returned to Portsmouth in October.

Kent ship offloaded her Wildcat helicopter yesterday to return to 815 Naval Air Squadron at its base, RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.

And, despite foul weather battering southern England, Kent embarked family members off Plymouth to allow them to experience a night aboard a working warship.

The 185-strong ship’s company have seen relatively little of them in 2019 as Kent has been away from Portsmouth for 275 days – after completing training in Plymouth she was thrust into exercises off Scotland, and two months in the Baltic supporting the Royal Navy’s principal amphibious deployment of the year, before then being dispatched to the Gulf in early August.