Fresh crew for HMS Chiddingfold’s Gulf mission

A fresh crew has taken charge of HMS Chiddingfold in the Gulf to guide the minehunter into 2021.

Crew 1 from Portsmouth’s 2nd Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM2 Crew 1) are now in the Middle East where they will remain on the Hunt-class ship for the next four months.

The changeover comes after months of pre-deployment training and extensive measures to follow Covid restrictions, and marks the first rotation of crew since the ship arrived in the Middle East.

Chiddingfold left Portsmouth earlier this year to relieve sister ship HMS Ledbury and is now operating out of the UK’s Gulf base in Bahrain. Her previous crew sailed the minehunter from Portsmouth, through the Suez Canal and into the Gulf.

Crew 1, nicknamed the Fighting Aces, have now taken up the mantle and are primed and ready for training and exercises.

Engineering Technician Charlie Ellis is a junior communications expert, who keeps Chiddingfold linked up to the Maritime Component Commander and allied partners during operations.

He said: “I like working with the US sailors – there’s only a few Royal Navy ships out here, but we work really hard to pull our weight and do our bit.

“With Covid, we can’t get about as much as usual and there aren’t really any runs-ashore but the naval support facility in Bahrain is great and the deployment is a good opportunity to save money - I’m trying to buy my first house! 

“Although, it is the first time away from family for this long, which is tricky. The new dual-crew model is a great opportunity as we know exactly when we’ll be home and away.”

I’m incredibly proud of my ship’s company for pulling together during the tough pre-deployment training, generating a real team ethos and demonstrating what Crew 1 is capable of achieving.

Lieutenant Commander Chris Sharp, MCM2 Crew 1’s Commanding Officer

Sub Lieutenant James Bell acts as Second Officer of the Watch, learning the ropes and preparing to qualify to take charge of the ship from her bridge. He added: “Being in the Gulf is a good opportunity to train and is something totally different to the normal day-to-day.

“It’s great to be finally deployed and it’s good experience towards qualifying as an Officer of the Watch. The dual-crew system is really good as I’m due to get married when I return so I can at least try to plan a wedding, although it might be smaller than I want because of Covid.” 

While in the Gulf, HMS Chiddingfold works with a number of allied partners to keep essential routes and sea lanes open for business.

For the next couple of years, the sailors on board will rotate with their sister crew - spending four months deployed and four months at home where they will enjoy leave and conduct training.

This means MCM2 Crew 1 will spend 12 months on the frontline in the Gulf, protecting UK interests and being able to react 24/7, 365 days of the year.

MCM2 Crew 1’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Chris Sharp, has taken the crew through their pre-deployment training and into theatre.

He said: “I’m incredibly proud of my ship’s company for pulling together during the tough pre-deployment training, generating a real team ethos and demonstrating what Crew 1 is capable of achieving. 

“This deployment will undoubtedly be both professionally and personally challenging for every single person on board, including me.  But I believe in what we’re doing here, and I’m really proud of everyone for persevering through Covid to ensure we have all deployed safely and at the height of operational capability.”

He continued: “It’s a really exciting time to be in the mine warfare community at the moment with high-tech autonomy being woven into front-line operations in concert with trusty Hunt-class ships.

“The dual-crew rotation is a great opportunity for all in mine countermeasures vessels. I can already tell everyone in my ship’s company when their leave can be taken for the next 24 months – something often not possible in high­-tempo operations.”