Type 23 HMS Iron Duke is heading home after a six-month deployment that has seen the warship take part in combat operations for the first time in her 20-year lifespan.
The last few weeks on board the frigate have seen considerable change culminating in this successful period of combat operations.
Having handed over in the Gulf to HMS St Albans after five months in station, Iron Duke and her ship’s company thought the main thrust of effort was behind them and were looking forward to an easy return to Portsmouth – an expectation brought to an end upon arrival in Marmaris in Turkey.
Here the Type 23 was told that she had been re-tasked as a temporary relief for destroyer HMS Liverpool in support of Operation Unified Protector, the multinational NATO task force charged with enacting the UN Security Council’s decision to protect civilians in Libya.
The focus of the crew swiftly switched from thoughts of homecoming, families and friends to combat operations.
As they had spent considerable time over previous weeks sharpening their gunnery skills and ensuring their damage control was up to scratch, the hard work undoubtedly paid off.
After two days of intensive briefing, the ship was ready – HMS Iron Duke entered the Joint Operating Area on July 16 and over the course of the next five days, she went to Action Stations several times to support operations ashore.
The frigate’s 4.5-inch gun fired many illuminating starshells to light up targets so that spotters could confirm that no civilians were in the area.
Once proven clear, either the ship’s 4.5-inch gun was called into action again using high-explosive ammunition or air assets – helicopters or jets – were called upon to suppress, despatch or disperse the threat.
In her first experience of coming under threat and combat operations, the warship and her company performed exceptionally.
Everyone on board responded to the challenge and worked exactly in line with their training, functioning as a well-drilled and cohesive team.
After completion of her role off the coast of Libya, HMS Iron Duke is expected to return to the UK at the end of July to be reunited with family and friends – and to enjoy some well-earned leave.
Her homecoming will bring with it a real sense of achievement after six months of diverse, challenging and some unexpected activities.