HMS Northumberland readies for Christmas patrols after jam-packed few months

HMS Northumberland’s sailors are preparing for Christmas away from home as they continue on their vital mission to protect UK waters and the nation’s nuclear deterrent.

The Type 23 frigate was last at her home port of Devonport in late September and since then has been part of the UK Carrier Strike group during landmark operations in the North Sea and monitored Russian activity close to UK waters during her relentless patrols around Britain.

In all, Northumberland has sailed more than 10,000 miles since leaving home but it doesn’t end there. The frigate and her ship’s company are preparing for a festive period away carrying out their vital duties in protecting the UK’s home waters, all with rigorous Covid-19 restrictions in place which ultimately mean nobody on board can go any further than the jetty when they come alongside between operations.

Northumberland has stopped in Dundee, Lerwick and Faslane during her latest missions, but each time sailors have remained in a protective bubble to ensure the virus does not risk their vital operations.

Commanding Officer, Commander Thom Hobbs, said: “This deployment has been incredibly challenging for my ship’s company given the stringent but necessary restrictions we follow due to the coronavirus. 

“We follow them to ensure that the UK’s very high readiness frigate is always available, ready to respond at immediate notice to protect UK sensitive waters and the UK’s strategic deterrent. 

“Even in the face of these extraordinary challenges, my ship’s company has responded, remaining professional, adaptable and delivering in abundance. I am incredibly proud of what every sailor has achieved in these testing times.”

 

Even in the face of these extraordinary challenges, my ship’s company has responded, remaining professional, adaptable and delivering in abundance. I am incredibly proud of what every sailor has achieved in these testing times.

Commander Thom Hobbs

During operations with HMS Queen Elizabeth and the UK Carrier Strike group, Northumberland was deployed in her role as an expert submarine hunter, providing vital protection from subsurface threats to the group of allied warships.

Using her specialist equipment, including state of the art Sonar 2087 Variable Depth Sonar, Northumberland kept tabs on activity below the waves, as the largest and most powerful European-led maritime force in almost 20 years gathered in the North Sea.

In all, nine ships, 15 fighter jets, 11 helicopters and 3,000 personnel from the UK, US and the Netherlands were involved as HMS Queen Elizabeth prepared for her first operational deployment next year.

Northumberland then quickly turned her attention to security in UK waters after breaking away from the carrier and was involved in an operation to monitor Russian intelligence gathering ship Viktor Leonov with patrol ship HMS Tyne. 

The frigate later watched the movements of Udaloy-class destroyer, the Vice-Admiral Kulakov, as she sailed north-west of the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland.

Continuous tasking such as this provides a good challenge for Northumberland’s marine engineers, keeping the Type 23 ticking over while using some 1,000 tonnes of diesel fuel.

Keeping the ship fuelled and running is one thing, but there’s also the crews’ bellies and some 190 meals needing to be prepared three times a day, seven days a week. 

Given the strict restrictions to protect the ship’s company from Covid-19, almost every meal eaten is served on board by the galley team. 

That ultimately means lots of sausages – 10,000 in all, along with 12,000 eggs, 1,000kg of cheese, 13,000kg of potatoes and 2,600kg of flour – to keep the ship’s sailors going.

During the frigate’s time away, Flight Observer (from Mohawk Flight, 814 Naval Air Squadron) Lieutenant Luke Maciejewski achieved the accolade of 1,000 flying hours. 

When the ship’s submarine hunting Merlin Mk2 helicopter touched down on the flight deck, Luke was met by the commanding officer and a fresh water wash down to celebrate his milestone.

He said: “I’m delighted to have reached this milestone. Whilst not quite as many as our Flight Commander it is a great achievement for me and demonstrates the enormous team effort involved in putting the Merlin Mk2 into the air. It is a key asset when conducting national tasking and anti-submarine warfare and it is a privilege to be part of it.”

Cdr Hobbs added: “All those embarked and deployed in HMS Northumberland would like to wish friends, families and loved ones a safe and festive Christmas and we all very much look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year.”