Navy

HMS Westminster Returns To Portsmouth After 110-Day Deployment

The vessel was part of the NATO group to recently escort nine Russian warships near UK waters.

HMS Westminster has docked in Portsmouth, after 110 days of operations in and around UK waters.

The vessel and crew have clocked up 17,500 nautical miles while under strict COVID-19 measures, working with other Navy units, the RAF and NATO.

Recently, it was one of three Navy ships to support NATO in shadowing nine Russian vessels approaching UK waters.

The ship's deployment coincided with the coronavirus pandemic and a number of measures were put in place to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection on board.

Personnel had to self-isolate for two weeks before the ship's departure on 1 May.

Nearly all schedule port visits were cancelled, with exception to Reykjavik in Iceland after NATO's Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

HMS Westminster’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander David Armstrong, said the crew had to adapt to ensure they "are definitely available should there be any operational tasking required".

During deployment, the ship also carried out deck landing training with 825 Naval Air Squadron.

Three Wildcat pilots took part in the training, with nobody allowed out of the helicopters and onto the deck to avoid any risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

HMS Westminster and HMS Kent sail alongside Icelandic Coastguard ship during NATO's Exercise Dynamic Moose in June (Picture: Royal Navy).

The closest the ship's company got to dry land for weeks at a time was a fenced-off area on a jetty for exercise.

"No one’s gone home and we haven’t seen our friends and family for that length of time, which is unusual, and the extra stress of COVID-19 has made it a more challenging," added Lt Cdr Armstrong.

“Keeping the ship’s company collegiate when no one gets the opportunity to step ashore and take any respite has been a challenge. 

"Our PTI has been busy, along with the wider executive team, creating our own sort of entertainment – whether that’s running a charity triathlon on board, a whole-ship pizza night, quizzes or whole-ship film nights – anything and everything which can alleviate the boredom and give people the sense of ‘downtime’ has been really important.”

HMS Westminster will now undergo planned maintenance at Portsmouth, giving the crew a hard-earned rest.

Cover image: HMS Westminster (Picture: Royal Navy).