Britain's Gulf minehunting force form up for new commander

The crews of the Royal Navy’s four Gulf minehunters filed off their ships and on to the jetty in Bahrain to greet their new commander. More than 150 sailors – from HM Ships Atherstone, Quorn, Shoreham and Ramsey – plus specialist engineers and the Mine Warfare Battle Staff formed up for a ‘clear lower deck’ to greet Cdr Jim Buck.

Meet the men and women making sure there’s a permanent Royal Navy minehunter presence in the Gulf, 24/7/365.

This is (almost) the full complement of the UK Mine Counter-Measures Force, mustered on the jetty in Bahrain for a ‘clear lower deck’ to mark the arrival of their new commander, Cdr Jim Buck (front right).

So formed up are (back row, left to right): 31 sailors from Sandown-class warship HMS Ramsey, 38 and 37 souls from Hunt-class ships HMS Atherstone and Quorn respectively, and 31 men and women who form the ship’s company of Ramsey’s sister HMS Shoreham.

We say almost the full complement because duty watches were, of course, still aboard their ships while the rest of their shipmates lined up on the concrete.

In front of them, the 25 engineers of Fleet Support Unit 2.

And then there’s the mine warfare battle staff (16 souls) drawn from Mine Counter-measures Squadron 2 (MCM2) in Portsmouth.

At the front, alongside his CO, is the Chief of Staff, Lt Cdr Ben Stait.

In all, 155 Naval personnel – although that’s not quite all it takes to sustain the four-strong force, for there’s the ship’s company of RFA Cardigan Bay (60 plus), whose vessel is the ‘mother ship’ for the force (and home to the battle staff), and the staff of the UK Maritime Component Commander, the RN’s senior command in the region, in Bahrain itself.

Cdr Buck has just taken over from his predecessor at MCM2, Cdr Martin Mackey, while his Portsmouth-based staff take it in turns with their comrades from north of the border, MCM1 in Faslane, to direct the minehunters’ mission in the Gulf – a mission which has now been going for more than six years.

The task of the force is to hone the RN’s ability to find mines in warm, sandy waters, strengthen the Navy’s bonds with regional navies and Coalition warships patrolling the Gulf, and generally contribute to the wider international effort to ensure these waters are safe and secure for all mariners.

The task of the force is to hone the RN’s ability to find mines in warm, sandy waters, strengthen the Navy’s bonds with regional navies and Coalition warships patrolling the Gulf, and generally contribute to the wider international effort to ensure these waters are safe and secure for all mariners.