Navy

HMS Blyth Joins NATO Task Group For North Sea Ordnance Disposal Operations

The task group will ensure new and old mines left over from historical conflicts do not interfere with shipping lanes.

Royal Navy minehunter HMS Blyth has arrived at Den Helder Naval Base in the Netherlands to carry out Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations in the North Sea with other NATO warships.

The Sandown-class minehunter left HMNB Clyde to join the Dutch-led force, Standing Mine Countermeasures Group One.

The group deals with leftover ordnance, ensuring both old and new mines do not interrupt shipping as well as keeping sea lanes open, with its remits stretching from the Baltic to the Atlantic.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the last few months more challenging, but Crew 2 of Faslane's 1st Mine Countermeasures Squadron, which operates the vessel, successfully completed their assessment from the Fleet Operational Sea Training team ready for NATO deployment.

The ship's company was tested in skills such as minehunting, diving, weaponry, damage control and navigation to ensure both the ship and her crew are in the best possible position to respond to any task that comes her way while with the group.

"I always enjoy firing the 30mm. It's an excellent weapon and it really leaves you in awe," said mine warfare specialist Able Seaman 'Ralph' Wigham.

"The FOST [Fleet Operational Sea Training] staff also provided some really useful pointers that have definitely sharpened up our skills prior to deploying."

HMS Blyth at Naval Base Den Helder in the Netherlands before starting Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations in the North Sea (Picture: Commander, Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1/Twitter).

Ahead of deployment, the marine and weapons engineering departments, which have earned several Herbert Lott awards for their efficiency, made sure everything was running correctly, rectified defects and ensured the ship was ready.

"HMS Blyth is once again ready for operations and we are all looking forward to working with our NATO allies and helping to demonstrate the UK's commitment to the alliance," said Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Peter Ellison.

"The programme provides a great balance of operational tasking and opportunities to share knowledge and learn from our international friends and allies.

"We are truly stronger together."

HMS Blyth completed a 6,500 nautical mile voyage home from the Gulf last summer and underwent an extensive maintenance period through the autumn and winter after three years in the Middle East.

Cover image: HMS Blyth begins her transit to join NATO allies in the North Sea (Picture: HMS Blyth/Twitter).