Royal Navy ship finds live depth charge on exercise

A mine-hunting exercise in the Gulf turned up the real thing when Royal Navy ship HMS Chiddingfold found a live depth charge.

The ship’s clearance divers were dispatched to dispose of the explosive during the incident in the Gulf.

The real-life scenario came as Royal Navy minehunters, based in Bahrain, were put through their paces in an exercise with the US Navy.

Her Majesty’s Ships Atherstone, Chiddingfold and Shoreham met up with the US Navy Avenger-class mine countermeasures vessels USS Dextrous and Devastator for a week of testing scenarios.

The opportunity to conduct complex mine warfare serials with the US Navy was a hugely rewarding challenge for my ship’s company.

Lieutenant Commander John Cromie

The task force, supported by Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay, searched for mines before tasking their divers or Seafox Unmanned Underwater Vehicle to dispose of them.

Sub Lt Phillip Fordham, HMS Shoreham's navigating officer, said: “This is my second overseas deployment since I joined the Royal Navy and I have now visited three very different parts of the world. 

“Last year’s deployment to the Mediterranean gave us experience of operating in deep water, while our home-base of Scotland puts us in the cold waters of the Atlantic. 

“Working in the Gulf is helping us to understand the different techniques required to get the best out of kit in a warm-water environment. Working alongside the US Navy has also been great fun.”

The final phase of the exercise saw the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mitscher arrive to provide protection for the smaller ships are they simulated survey operations while coming under attack from the air and underwater.

This also gave sailors from both navies the chance to briefly spend time embarked in the opposite nation’s warships.

Sub Lieutenant Fergus Holland, currently conducting his specialist training onboard HMS Chiddingfold, said:

“I very much enjoyed my day onboard the USS Mitscher, learning how our colleagues do business. Despite slight differences in terminology and the number of people onboard, it was good to see that both the US and UK operate in much the same way.” 

Commanding Officer of HMS Atherstone, Lieutenant Commander John Cromie, said: “The opportunity to conduct complex mine warfare serials with the US Navy was a hugely rewarding challenge for my ship’s company. 

“Having just successfully completed a period of sea training prior to deploying to the Middle East, my crew were ready to show what we could do and I am delighted with how we performed throughout the week. I’m looking forward to even closer cooperation in the future.” 

Commander of the UK’s Mine Counter Measures Force Cdr Tim Davy emphasised the importance of rehearsing coordinated mine-hunting operations for both the Royal navy and US Navy.

“We have also been able to demonstrate our ability to deploy and sustain a large joint force on mine countermeasure operations, proving our ability to protect freedom of navigation in a region that includes three of the world’s six maritime chokepoints,” he added.

During the exercise all five minehunters conducted replenishment at sea with RFA Cardigan Bay.