Minehunter returns home after international rescues

Coming home: HMS Blyth draws alongside her home port of HM Naval Base Clyde after her NATO deployment.
Coming home: HMS Blyth draws alongside her home port of HM Naval Base Clyde after her NATO deployment.

Royal Navy mine hunter, HMS Blyth, returned to her home port at Faslane on Monday (July 21) after a three-month deployment which began and ended with rescue operations.

The crew, based at HM Naval Base Clyde, sailed on April 22 and were almost immediately involved in the rescue of two stricken sailors off Ailsa Craig.

After plucking the men from their capsized dinghy and handing them safely to the Coastguard, the vessel continued her journey, eventually arriving in the Mediterranean to take part in NATO exercises.

Months later, as she left to return home, Blyth found herself once again involved in a real-life maritime drama as the Italian Rescue Centre in Rome called on her help to locate a stricken boat with 400 migrants on board.

The crew leapt to the rescue, co-ordinating the search for the vessel, which had sent a distress signal after breaking down off the Italian coast.

“We stopped three merchant ships in the area and secured their assistance in searching different areas,” said Lieutenant Commander Mark Redmayne, Commanding Officer of HMS Blyth.

“The Italians provided a maritime patrol aircraft and we co-ordinated the search operations. After a number of hours the boat was spotted and the migrants rescued by the Italian Coastguard. “

During her NATO deployment, HMS Blyth exercised alongside the German, Turkish and Italian navies in “Italian Minex 14”, a yearly exercise off the North West coast of Italy which involved 738 sailors from 15 nations, 16 vessels and eight international observers.

“The exercise was invaluable,” said Lieutenant Commander Redmayne.

“It was scenario based and involved clearing minefields around ports in order to allow follow-up humanitarian aid.”

The Sandown class minehunter also stopped in at various ports during her deployment including Portugal, Gibraltar, Malta, Italy, Greece, and Tunisia.

There was also the chance for the crew to engage in some fun activities for a good cause – the sailors raised a total of £3,500 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and neonatal unit Tiny Lives.

Among the events was a “lift the Squadron” challenge where crew members were sponsored to weight-lift the equivalent of the seven Sandown Class mine hunters – 4,000 tonnes.

There was also a “beard tax” of £5 levied on anyone who wanted to grow what’s known as a “full set” in the navy (that’s a beard and moustache). Almost half the crew, around 20 sailors, took up the offer.

Other activities included a 48-hour cardio vascular challenge on a rowing machine and exercise bike, covering 645 miles, charity darts and a golf night which saw crew members use a makeshift driving range, hitting balls from the deck into the sea.