Thirteen months away spanning the Caribbean and Mediterranean ended for HMS Mersey today under grey Solent skies and a warm welcome from excited families.
The patrol ship first went West to deal with drug-smugglers and reassure Britain’s overseas territories in the Caribbean, before shifting to the Aegean to tackle the problem of people trafficking.
Pictures: PO(Phot) Ray Jones and LPhot Iggy Roberts
HER son has got her hat on… five-year-old Ethan Binns cuddles mum Std Amy as she returns home on HMS Mersey after a marathon 13-month deployment.
The steward, who lives at Gosport, was the only mum serving in the patrol ship which has spent 13 months on deployment.
“It feels really good to be home,” said Amy. “This is my first homecoming and we don’t get to Skype very often so to be able to see my son is just amazing. It’s brilliant.”
Ethan was given the day off school for the reunion… as was dad CPO Ross Binns, a warfare instructor at HMS Collingwood; mum’s been away over a year, which is unusual for Mersey as her crew rotates every few weeks.
The Binns family was one of many waiting eagerly on a very cold, grey winter’s day in Portsmouth, some with home-made banners, some with Leicester City flags, and all entertained by the Band of HM Royal Marines before the ship came alongside.
Since last seeing Pompey in January 2016, Mersey has clocked up 48,000 miles visiting 32 ports in 19 countries across three continents in a deployment which mixed drug-busting and flag-flying for the UK in the Caribbean with clamping down on people trafficking in the Aegean alongside NATO allies and UK Border Force.
Her CO Lt Cdr George Storton described the tour of duty as “epic”, spanning the Caribbean and Turkey and “driven by the spirit, commitment and courage of the ship’s company
“With a crew of less than 50 on board at any one time, everybody is involved in every task from hosting presidents to working with NATO allies and developing lifesaving procedures in the Mediterranean. The team has done an amazing job and this deployment really highlights the capability and flexibility of the offshore patrol vessel.”
He had a date at a birthday party immediately after stepping off his ship, for his son Toby is celebrating his fifth birthday today.
Rear Admiral Alex Burton, Rear Admiral of Surface Ships, joined Mersey in the Solent to thank crew for their efforts and present the coveted ‘Fleet Efficiency Award’, singling out Mersey as the best small ship in the Navy.
Thanks to the concerted effort by Mersey and the other vessels committed in the Aegean over the past 12 months the number of migrants trying to reach Greece and Turkey has dropped by 80 per cent.
“Being deployed to the Med has been my first time abroad with the Royal Navy and I can’t wait to tell my family about all my experiences,” said 21-year-old Bradley Alderton from Littlehampton.
“I’m really happy to see my family again and to have been able to show them around my first ship.”
The ship will now receive some extensive TLC following her extended exertions, before resuming her more regular duties around the UK, enforcing fishing legislation.