Penzance and Chiddingfold homeward bound from the Gulf

Four British warships met up in Oman - two about to begin a three-year stint in the Gulf, the other pair ready to start their marathon tours of duty in the region.

Heading for the UK are HMS Penzance (bound for Faslane) and HMS Chiddingfold (Portsmouth).

Assuming their places in Bahrain - the hub of Royal Navy operations east of Suez - are HMS Blyth and Ledbury, who've made the epic odyssey to the Middle East hopping from one port to another every fortnight or so…

…which is exactly what Penzance and 'Cheery Chid' must to do on their 6,000-mile passage home.

"The Royal Navy has a fantastic reputation as one of the best at mine detection and mine clearance," said Lieutenant Commander Jim Lovell, Penzance's Commanding Officer.

"After 1,105 days with providing that capability to the region with Chiddingfold, we've handed the baton on to our sister ships Ledbury and Blyth, who will continue to underpin the UK's wellbeing with their very capable mine hunters."

The Royal Navy has a fantastic reputation as one of the best at mine detection and mine clearance

Lieutenant Commander Jim Lovell, Commanding Officer of HMS Penzance

During her time assigned to the RN's minehunting force in the Gulf - comprising a battle staff, command ship (currently RFA Cardigan Bay), two Sandown-class ships for locating mines in deep water (Bangor and now Blyth) and two Hunts which specialise in shallower waters (Middleton and now Ledbury).

Penzance has spent over 7,500 hours at sea - 44 weeks - and steamed in excess of 34,000 miles during her time in the Middle East, taking part in numerous mine warfare exercises with US, French and regional navies and visited 12 nations to foster strong ties between them and the UK.

Ready to pick up where she left off is Blyth, whose Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Peter Ware said his sailors had gone through "extensive preparations and training ready to commence mine counter measures operations in the Gulf.

"It is often quoted that nearly 40% of the world's energy flows through the important sea lanes of this region, which demonstrates the continuing importance of Royal Navy mine hunters in the Gulf."

Penzance and Chiddingfold are now homeward bound for an autumn return to the UK, while Blyth and Ledbury are acclimatising to Bahrain in high summer (presently 'only' in the low 40s Celsius).