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● Canary dwarfs... HMS Brocklesby (nearest the camera) and her
fellow NATO Mine Countermeasures Force Group 1 ships alongside
in West India Docks are overshadowed by the Manhattan-esque
skyline of Canary Wharf
Picture: PO(Phot) Terry Seward, DPR(N) Whitehall
Ships’ capital
SOME of the smallest ships
Co-operation (shortened to
in the NATO inventory
Bencoop by those involved) the
basked in the spring
NATO force found and disposed
of ten mines.
sunshine of the capital...
With the spring weather now
when not obscured by the
kicking in and Brocklesby in full
skyscrapers of the Canary
minehunting mode, technology let
Wharf complex.
the Hunt-class ship down when
her navigational radar
The four-strong
minehunting force,
decided it didn’t want to
including Hunt-class
play any more.
HMS Brocklesby, took a
So in perfect minebusting
break from destroying
conditions, the sailors
wartime ordnance in
found themselves
European waters with
kicking their heels
a short break in the
in Zeebrugge (well,
capital’s docklands.
not all of them; the
Brocklesby has
engineers were busy
been attached to
fixing the radar).
the Standing Mine
Still, the unplanned
lay-up permitted a
Group 1 since the
trip for some to Bruges,
beginning of the year and is
home of canals and fine
currently working with Holland’s
Belgian chocolates (Mmmm
Makkum, Latvia’s Namejs, and
– Ed), ideal gifts for loved ones
Belgium’s Godetia.
back home (the choccies that is,
The first half of Brocklesby’s
not the canals...).
deployment took her into the
With the radar fixed and the
Baltic. More recently her efforts
chocolates safely stored aboard,
have been concentrated in the
Brocklesby returned to Dutch
North Sea.
waters briefly (a one-day visit
The weather kept the ship (and
to Amsterdam was all the busy
her Allied counterparts) holed up
NATO programme allowed) and
in Den Helder as a combined
then Beneficial Co-operation
sweep of the seas, the 14-week
turned its attention to UK waters.
Beneficial Co-operation, was
After Easter in Brocklesby’s
initially thwarted by storms.
home of Portsmouth, the ships
When they abated, the force
nudged up the Thames to West
sailed and almost instantly came
India Docks.
across old ordance dumped in the Bencoop has since resumed (via
North Sea. Indeed, local fisherman Ipswich, where Brocklesby paid
have reported more than 500 a goodwill visit and hosted local
mines off the Dutch and Belgian Sea Cadets) with the international
coast in the past two years alone force continuing to scour the
(and NATO forces have disposed seas for mines in French, British,
of 365 of those explosives). Dutch and Belgian waters. Her
In the first four days of Beneficial NATO duties end this month.
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