HMS Richmond sailors reflect on Carrier Strike deployment

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: HMS Richmond

Frigate HMS Richmond returned to Devonport earlier this month after seven months away with the UK Carrier Strike Group.

Acting as an escort for flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, Richmond led the way as the task group headed to the Pacific Ocean.

Often at the front of the Carrier Group, the ship carried out anti-submarine warfare, provided air defence and conducted a number of defence engagements.

Some of her sailors and her commanding officer Commander Hugh Botterill reflect on the deployment.

Commander Hugh Botterill

“The thing I am most proud of is the extraordinary resilience the ship’s company showed.

“The ability to take just knock after knock and get on with it and do the job they were tasked to do quietly and confidently makes me very proud.

“That resilience they demonstrated is only possible because of the support they had back home.

“At one stage, we were doing air protective duties while the F-35s were conducting their missions as part of Operation Shader [against Daesh]. The F-35s were able to respond because Richmond was reporting on air activity.

“We are designed to look for submarines and yet were taking part in an air campaign. I am really proud that we were able to step up and achieve.

“Keeping morale high was a trilogy of train, maintenance and resetting. Being able to reset ourselves was as important as the other two. It was that relationship between being operationally ready, knowing when to rest and getting morale back up again.”

Engineering Technician Chloe Chapman, 23, from Plymouth.

“I have been in the Royal Navy for two years and joined Richmond in March, just before the start of the deployment. It was my first ship and at first, it was a bit of a shock to the system because it’s a massive deployment.

“But I managed to make friends really quickly and it was the deployment of a lifetime.

“It definitely threw me in at the deep end. But you have to get used to it in this environment.

“One of the highlights for me was marching with the Pakistan Navy in Pakistan. We were invited to march up to the Mausoleum – that was an incredible moment.”

Able Seaman Cameron Shires, 22, from Doncaster.

“This was my first big deployment although I have previously served on HMS Echo and Sutherland.

“Having some of the main port visits taken away from us was hard but the second half of the deployment, seeing India and Pakistan, was great.

“Then during our stop in Israel, we got to play a rugby game against a side and that was decent. It ended up being a close, high-scoring game with just a few points between us but we managed to get the win.

“That was a stand-out moment for me.”

Lieutenant Joe Cox, 28, from Plymouth.

“It was challenging. Coming into the deployment and the build-up, we had an expectation of how it was going to be but because of the restrictions with Covid it has been a different experience.

“We had to adapt and I think that’s something the ship managed to do well. The Commanding Officer was quite pragmatic in how he managed the morale of the ship’s company.

“Getting ashore in Guam was memorable. We got to go ashore in Europe but once we moved to the Asia-Pacific, the runs ashore dried up. Guam was the first time in a good couple of months that we were able to get ashore and get off base.”

That resilience they demonstrated is only possible because of the support they had back home.

Commander Hugh Botterill