Preparing HMS Trent for deployment to the Med

HMS Trent is making her way to the Mediterranean for her first operational overseas deployment having generated from newly constructed vessel to capable warship faster than any other in the Royal Navy’s recent memory.

This means she and her ship’s company have been through an intense period of operational training and preparations which culminated in her commissioning service and departure from home base of Portsmouth on Monday. 

She will join operation Sea Guardian, led by NATO and charged with providing maritime security in the Mediterranean; a chance for her to show off the capabilities of the new River class offshore patrol vessels and to work with the UK’s allies and partners in the region on common interests.

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander James Wallington-Smith, said: “The exceptional progress we’ve made over the last eight months has demonstrated what my ship’s company and the ship are capable of, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to her service career. 

“While many of our colleagues across the Armed Forces have been actively assisting with the Government’s response to the Covid-19 epidemic through the last four months, we’ve been no less busy patrolling UK waters and making sure we’re able to take HMS Trent into any situation we might face.”

This has meant training to board suspect vessels in international waters, evacuate civilians and match any air or surface threat with the ship’s array of weapons.

Engineering Technician Bradley Hammersley, 20 and from Coventry, who is one of the ship’s junior marine engineers, said: “Whilst the buildup in training has been tough, it has been rewarding to see how we have improved as a ship. I can’t wait for the opportunity to deploy overseas for the first time and experience the opportunities that will be presented.”

Only two-thirds of the ship’s company will be on board at any time whilst operational, with a three-watch system employed to give one-third of them time ashore for leave, collective or individual training. This helps keep the ship available at sea for 320 days a year whilst allowing time to maintain a more sustainable work-life balance.

For a lot of the ship’s company, it will be their first experience of operations on a deployed Royal Navy vessel.

Engineering Technician Robson Gelder, 18 and from Newcastle, one of the junior weapon engineers and the youngest member of the ship’s company, said: “I’m looking forward to deploying overseas, it will be a great experience and I will be doing things that most people my age group could only imagine doing.” ET Gelder has already deployed on HMS Queen Elizabeth before transferring to Overseas Patrol Squadron.

At HMNB Portsmouth, the squadron staff have been helping make sure that the ship is ready for what could be a tough and varied stint in the Mediterranean.

Looking after the welfare of the 65 men and women tops the list; establishing the support for families while the ship is away is prioritised. This includes recording children’s story books via the charity Aggie Weston’s (which always has a very popular take-up), and compiling an address list so the Commanding Officer can send monthly updates to families.

There are personnel preparations to complete; making sure passports and European Health Insurance Cards are in order, providing security briefs and conducting fitness tests.

The week prior to departure was spent ensuring that HMS Trent loaded the food, stores and ammunition needed to see her through the first stage of her deployment as well as practicing for the commissioning service. There were also numerous meetings for the command team to attend, looking at aspects of the political and security situation in their area of operations and how they will make their presence count.

HMS Trent and her sisters have an improved design on the three Batch 1 OPV, which includes a flight deck, increased speed and endurance, and space for up to 50 embarked troops. This allows her to be deployed in a variety of her roles over the course of her deployment, such as maritime security, humanitarian relief or defence engagement to achieve any required mission.

She is the third of her class to deploy, following in the wake of HMS Forth and Medway which are currently deployed to the Falkland Islands and the Caribbean respectively.