Royal Navy minehunters HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance have arrived in the Gulf following a 6,000-mile trip from their home ports in the UK.
The two ships spent two-and-a-half months at sea as they travelled through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Bab El Mandeb Strait and the Strait of Hormuz before arriving in Bahrain.
They are replacing sister ships HMS Blyth and HMS Ledbury on Operation Kipion, helping to maintain shipping routes through the region.
HMS Chiddingfold’s journey began with some stormy conditions as the vessel was met with five-metre waves and 50 knot winds in the Bay of Biscay.
The Hunt-class minehunter then met up with Sandown-class HMS Penzance at Gibraltar before continuing through the Mediterranean, stopping at Sicily, Crete and Cyprus.
Once in the eastern Mediterranean, HMS Chiddingfold supported NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian, which sees allied ships patrol the sea.
Both minehunters then travelled through the Suez Canal which HMS Chiddingfold’s Navigating Officer, Lieutenant William Gunter, called the "navigational wonder of the world".
Following the vessels’ arrival in Bahrain, the crews - 50 on HMS Chiddingfold and 40 on HMS Penzance - had a few days to relax before starting work.
Chiddingfold’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Tom Harrison, said it was a "massive team effort" to get the ship to Bahrain.
"My crew have worked with determination and fighting spirit to overcome the many challenges of COVID-19, inclement weather and being away from base port for 10 weeks with limited support," he said.
Both HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance will now be forward deployed in Bahrain for the next three years, operating under the new Mine Counter Measures (MCM) dual-crew manning model.
Britain has kept a four-strong minehunting force in Bahrain for more than a decade.
Cover image: HMS Chiddingfold arrives in the Gulf (Picture: Royal Navy).