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28 Mar 2024

Battle-proven HMS Richmond returns home to Plymouth from Red Sea mission

Battle-proven HMS Richmond returns home to Plymouth from Red Sea mission
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Home from harm’s way are the 200 men and women of HMS Richmond who have completed a short, but both vital and dangerous mission to the Red Sea.

The foul Easter weather denied them a homecoming to remember – 500 family members and friends were due to greet the ship today.

But stormy conditions prompted the frigate to return to base in Plymouth last night to escape the worst of the bad weather.

HMS Richmond spent nearly six weeks’ in the line of fire around the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Aden, where merchant shipping has come under repeated attack from Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Richmond was called upon just once to fire her weapons in anger to thwart such attacks, firing Sea Ceptor missiles to down incoming drones in the largest swarm attack to date: rebels launched 57 missiles and drones from various sites in Yemen in the small hours of Saturday March 9.

It’s the first time Sea Ceptor has been fired in a combat situation since entering service nearly a decade ago.

Her crew were also first on the scene after the merchant vessel Sky II was struck by a Houthi missile, provided the ship’s master with an assessment of damage; the helicopter also offered assistance to the merchantman but Sky II’s sailors were on top of the situation.

Having completed her duties on Operation Prosperity Guardian, the international mission created shortly before Christmas to protect maritime trade passing through the Red Sea, HMS Richmond has handed over to Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Diamond, which remains in the area to this day.

The actions of March 9 and Prosperity Guardian patrols were not HMS Richmond’s sole contribution to the international security effort.

The combined Royal Marines/Royal Navy boarding team, watched over by the frigate’s Wildcat helicopter, searched seven vessels to ensure the craft were not carrying illegal cargoes.

“Having the responsibility to board vessels was a testing, but enjoyable experience,” said warfare specialist Able Seaman Patrick Naylor.

“Being able to contribute to the crucial tasking of merchant vessel protection in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden really feels like we have made a difference.”

Shipmate Writer Daisy Bartram-Burch added. “I feel a sense of pride being part of the team and seeing the hard work and preparation come together.

“I am reminded why I joined the RN; every day is different and exciting. The initial pipe ‘Hands to boarding stations’ followed by ‘Action Wildcat’ stirs up both suspense and excitement.”

Since sailing from Devonport in the first week January, Richmond has sailed over 22000 nautical miles – 9,000 of them in February alone, the most in any month since she commissioned, as well as being far enough to sail the circumference of the earth– while her Wildcat helicopter flown 115 hours of sorties making it the busiest in the Navy.

Chefs have worked around the crew to serve four meals a day to their 200 shipmates (more than 100,000 in all), getting through 30,000 eggs, 40,000 sausages, six tonnes of spuds and 25,000 litres of milk

The ship’s company have enjoyed brief periods of rest – swimming in the Indian Ocean and flight deck barbecue, plus stops in Malta and Gibraltar on the way home.

“Every single member of the team has played an important role and has performed in accordance with the highest traditions of the service,” said Commander Richard Kemp, HMS Richmond’s Commanding Officer.

“I was exceptionally proud to witness my ship’s company go to action and defeat threats in such a professional and resolute manner.

“Whilst our Ceptor engagements happened in mere minutes, their success was built upon many months of hard work, training and dedication.”


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