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KING MIDAS has indeed brought a touch of gold
will hawwiwill hhavevvee w wowoorked with 18 rkek d wwihiithh 1818 ing naingng nanations get some real benefit titioi nsss getg t sossomeme e reareeaallbl bbenenefit
to bear upon the minehunters of the NATO groups
MCMs from other naMMCMs from otherere nnnations out of their commitment,out of theieeiririr co mmimmm itmtment,t,”” s said saidaid
– w––we hae havee been the constant been the coc nstant Cdr DaCdr Davies.
during his namesake exercise – golden sunshine
throughout.” By the time this is published,
casts a golden glow on the ships basking in the Currently all four NATO Group 1 will be on its third peri-
Mediterranean sea, writes Helen Craven.
groups have been pulled together od of historic ordnance disposal
for Exercise Noble Midas, step- operations, clearing dangerous
THERE’S a murky grey bodies as the flagship for the
ping in to protect the people of wartime relics from off the coast
screen. The cathode-ray
battlestaff... the fictional island Ezir from its of France. In the spring of this
tube has burnt a ghostly
The two British ships within sparring nations of Northland and year, some 75 contacts were inves-
circle into the centre, and
Group 1 are at polar ends of their Westland and the rebel insurgent tigated off the coast of Belgium
this is the only discernable
working spectrum. Jumblez who seek to spark the and the Netherlands, with 18 con-
On board minehunter Ledbury, flames of conflict once more. firmed as ordnance.
detail against the striations
after a long stint on fish duties, the The two larger NATO groups Minehunter HMS Ledbury left
of grey.
mine-men are rather enjoying a (among which sails British frig- the UK in early August and the
The minehunter’s yellow sub-
return to their core business. ate HMS Cumberland) are posi- men on board are looking forward
mersible is struggling to find a
On board the hydrography ves- tioned in reality in the deep seas of to the chance to bring their skills
picture amid the weed and sand
sel Roebuck the ship’s duties as the mid Mediterranean some way to bear on the real deal.
on the Mediterranean seabed.
minehunter flagship have meant to the south of the minehunter Although they’re also very grate-
Suddenly the picture shifts –
a prolonged break from her usual groups off the Grecian coastline ful for the opportunities they’ve
the grey nothing focuses into a
surveying routine. Most of her who need the reality of seabed for had to refresh their skills amid the
striped pelt of seaweed and sandy
surveying equipment has been the fiction of their minehunting, clear, glittering blue of the balmy
stripped out of the ops room although for the exercise the sce- Mediterranean.
To quote a remark from earlier
to make space for the NATO nario plays out as if all four groups Navigator Sub Lt Rob Garner
in the day: “It’s like the bloody
machines for her command and are cheek by jowl. said with a grin: “After a few
Himalayas down there.”
control role, and her specialist This is, in fact, the accreditation weeks of transit, it was good to
Exercise Noble Midas has
survey boat has stayed back at her exercise for the other minehunters get back into mine warfare. And
brought together the minehunters
Devonport home. in Group 2, under the command doing that in good weather and
and larger ships from all four of
For Roebuck it has been a long of the German Navy; Roebuck clear water with lots of pretty
the NATO task groups.
and demanding year – by the end had to contend with her own girls going past on yachts waving
It is almost impossible to write
of it, she’ll have visited 27 ports exam conditions months earlier as to us.”
any story about the North Atlantic
in 13 different countries, been at part of Exercise Loyal Mariner. Ledbury’s Commanding Officer
Treaty Organisation without
sea for 11 months with barely a Group 1 is in the supporting Lt Cdr Chris Nelson admits: “It’s
drowning a reader in a sea of
handful of weeks at home; a seri- role, with five MCMs from the been a brilliant chance to see the
acronyms – the minehunters and
ous stint of sea-time for this non- UK, Belgium, Estonia, Norway guys at work, and see the kit on
their associated ships are part of
rotational crew of 57. and Germany. here working.”
And on Roebuck, there have Cdr Chris Davies, the Royal The ship’s time at the NATO
Standing NATO Mine Counter
been neither the challenges nor Navy officer who is head of the Underwater Research Centre off
Measures Group 1 and 2, the
the rewards of the minehunters minehunting Group 1, said: “You Italy’s La Spezia saw the crew put
larger ships are part of SNMG1
which she tends. need to exercise in the types of through their paces picking up
and SNMG2 or Standing NATO
The NATO games have dropped environment and conditions that the deliberately scattered dummy
Maritime Group 1 and 2; and
some different tasking into their you expect to fight in. ordnance that could be checked
that’s without even delving
hands, as I’m told cheerfully by “If you don’t train as you mean against the NATO record.
into the recent past where such
LLogs(CS)(D) Becky Mudie who to fight, you will run into prob- Lt Cdr Nelson said: “The check
units were known as SNFM or
had obviously relished the oppor- lems when you least need them.” on our gear allowed us to go on
tunity to play a pregnant, mal- It’s a blunt fact: the seas are from La Spezia with a feeling of
nourished refugee during the last still awash with historic ordnance, warmth about what we do.”
week’s scenarios. and it doesn’t take much to add Ledbury and her associat-
So there, the acronyms are
The minehunting fleet which some fresh dangers to the globe’s ed group joined with the other
dealt with in one great indigest-
Roebuck leads have waxed and waters. NATO minehunting group to
ible chunk and henceforth the
waned over the course of her Cdr Davies said: “The mine is a work off Toulon during Exercise
minehunters which I am here to
steady tutelage, swelling up to cheap and effective weapon. Once Olives Noires, establishing good
see shall be referred to as Group
nine and dropping down to four laid, they never sleep.” relationships between the two
1 (although you will have to for-
as the ships of the various NATO It is well known to readers of groups, and among the interna-
give me the occasional appear-
nations have served their time in this paper that the seabed around tional minehunters within.
ance of an abbreviated NATO
the force. the UK is littered with the historic “There’s been a massive amount
and HMS).
When Roebuck hands over ordnance of World Wars 1 and 2. of ideas that have been swapped
And thankfully where recent
her flagship laurels in January Similarly past conflicts have among us about how we do our
stories of minehunters in the Gulf
in Denmark, she will be on her scarred the waters of the north- work,” said Ledbury’s CO. His
have had the added complication
fourth British minehunter, not to ern and southern Europe, forging ship has quickly forged a strong
of Brocklesby’s crew inside HMS
mention the rotating ships of the NATO’s minehunting group that relationship with the German
Chiddingfold, within NATO’s
Germans, Belgians, Danes, Dutch, has grown with new members ship within the task group, with
walls we simply have HMS
Estonians, Latvians, Norwegians, as more nations such as Poland, the British divers diving on FGS
Ledbury’s crew in HMS Ledbury
Italians... Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Homberg’s contacts.
and HMS Roebuck’s crew within
Roebuck’s commanding officer have joined their ships to the But it’s not just the Germans
HMS Roebuck – although they’re
Lt Cdr Matt Syrett commented: force. who have had visits from their
having to squeeze in a few more
“By the time we finish this we “NATO is keen that contribut- British allies. Greece’s HS Europa
Pictures: The changing faces of NATO minehunting (main picture and various) ENS Admiral Cowan, HNLMS Urk, ITS Numana, HMS Roebuck, HMS Ledbury, FGS Homburg and BNS Lobelia; (l
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