The Navy’s Gulf-based minehunting in the Gulf now sails under an historic banner as an old squadron has been brought back to life.
The badge of 9th Mine Counter-Measures Squadron is now worn by all four minehunters plus their mother ship – in homage to the predecessor unit which served in the Gulf from 1962 to 1971.
AFTER a four-decade absence an historic Royal Navy minehunting force has been reborn in the Gulf.
For nine years between 1962 and 1971 the 9th Mine Sweeping Squadron safeguarded the region’s waters when many of the countries bordering the Gulf were British protectorates.
Forty years later and with a permanent Royal Navy mine warfare force stationed in the Gulf again, the squadron name – with sweeping in the title replaced by counter-measures – has been resurrected to give the ships and personnel involved a stronger sense of identity.
To mark the rebirth of 9th Mine Counter-Measures Squadron (MCM9), the five ships in the force – minehunters Shoreham, Ramsey, Atherstone and Quorn and command/mother ship RFA Cardigan Bay – have funnel badges celebrating their parent unit.
Like the squadron title, the badge is an homage to its forebear, featuring a dhow but with a yellow background to emphasise the hot environment in which the ships operate (it’s currently 44˚C).
Cdre Ancona unveils the new squadron badge on HMS Ramsey
The RN’s senior officer in the region, UK Maritime Component Commander Cdre Simon Ancona performed the honours on HMS Ramsey unveiling the first funnel badge which, he said, provided “a unity of purpose, effort and pride”.
Which is exactly what the officer in charge of the Mine Warfare Battle Staff, Cdr Neil Marriot, hopes it will achieve.
“The badge provides distinctiveness – a collective team identity and a single banner to sail under. It illustrates a unified force with a common purpose with an enduring commitment to the Gulf.”
The current Bahrain-based force begin life in late 2006 as Operation Aintree with two minehunters, HMS Ramsey and Blyth. From 2008 the group doubled in size with the arrival of a pair of Hunt-class ships, Atherstone and Chiddingfold.
Cdr Marriott, Cdre Ancona and HMS Ramsey stalwarts LS Gary McAllister and PO Sam Dixon in front of the newly-adorned funnel
Come 2013 and operating under the banner of the RN’s overarching east of Suez mission, Operation Kipion, the minewarfare force has been bolstered with a battle staff, mother ship, Lynx helicopter flight and a repair and logistics organisation.
“Since 2006 the organisation has grown and is now very well supported,” said HMS Ramsey’s PO Sam Dixon – on his fourth tour of duty on the Bahrain hunters. “I really like the badge. It gives us a single identity.”
As for the historic squadron, it was originally formed of four Ton-class sweepers – Appleton, Kemerton, Flockton and Chilcompton – which were specially fitted for the rigours of operating in the Gulf.
They were based in Aden and later Bahrain, andhad their pennant numbers painted in Arabic on the stern. The force remained in place until the summer of 1971. When Bahrain and Qatar became independent nations and Trucial States formed into the United Arab Emirates, the squadron was disbanded.