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11 July 2014, 06:00
After more than six months away HMS Diamond has returned home to Portsmouth from operations to remove chemical weapons in Syria.
Operations included taking part in the international task group providing force protection to merchant vessels transporting chemical weapons and substances, intended for use in manufacturing chemical weapons, out of Syria for destruction.
On January 6 HMS Diamond left Portsmouth bound for the Gulf but in February the ship's tasking changed.
HMS Diamond proceeded to Limassol, Cyprus, where a handover with HMS Montrose was conducted. It was then that HMS Diamond became a part of Operation RECSYR ("REmoval of Chemical weapons from SYRia").
This operation marked the culmination of the diplomatic efforts to eliminate chemical weapons from the Syrian Regime and the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118, which called for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.
HMS Diamond spent much of her time escorting Danish and Norwegian merchant vessels, tasked with transporting chemical substances from Syria, as they sat in international waters waiting for each pick-up of containers holding the chemical substances.
HMS Diamond's Command Team was kept busy hosting a number of high profile visitors keen to understand the nature of Operation RECSYR including Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Francois and Rear Admiral Frank Torjahn, Admiral of the Danish Fleet and Commander Task Force 420 who left holding HMS Diamond's ship's company in high esteem.
Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Francois said:
"I was delighted to be able to visit HMS Diamond in March to see for myself the quality of her people and their determination to see this important mission to its conclusion. I am pleased to congratulate them on a successful deployment and to thank them for a job well done."
A key milestone within the operation was achieved on June 23 when the final pick-up of chemical weapons from Syria took place. This meant that the next phase of the operation could begin - to escort the remaining merchant vessel, the MV Ark Futura, to Giaio Tauro, Italy, where she would hand over most of her cargo to the USNS Cape Ray for destruction. This was completed on Wednesday July 2. The remainder she is bringing to the UK later this month where that part scheduled for destruction in the UK commercial facilities will be offloaded.
On July 2, just under six months from having sailed from home port, and a little over four months from assuming tasking on Operation RECSYR, HMS Diamond's mission completed when the MV Ark Futura entered Italian territorial waters. Leading Seaman Leigh Branston, Air Picture Supervisor in the operations room responsible for compiling the air picture to Command, said:
"Since joining the Navy in 2006, this has been my fourth deployment. It has been challenging without a doubt as there are many busy air lanes in this part of the world to keep on top of. I have watched Turkish and Israeli military aircraft conduct sorties and generally developed air pattern of life for future operations. However, the biggest achievement, for me is that I have been a part of the ship's company that directly contributed the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. This is what makes me most proud of what we have done on board."
Upon leaving Operation RECSYR, Commodore Engelbrecht Pedersen Royal Danish Navy, Commander Task Group 420, said:
"Looking back it has indeed been a very different experience for all involved. The complexity of cooperation across international organisations, nation states, merchant shipping companies, non-governmental organisations and embassies has been challenging but also rewarding. You have spent many hours forward deployed, providing vital contributions to the situational awareness of the Task Group. Fulfilling the tasks has not always been easy, but you have been tirelessly committed to our common goal. You have played a significant part in the removal of lethal chemical agents from Syria. HMS Diamond can be proud of its footprint in this historic naval operation. It truly has been a pleasure working with HMS Diamond and the Royal Navy."
The Commanding Officer, Commander Andy Ingham, said:
"As I come towards the end of my 18 months in command of HMS Diamond, the successful conclusion of this operation and the second deployment within HMS Diamond's life, has, without doubt, been the crowning jewel for me. It has been an operationally intense deployment with a necessity to be at a heightened state of readiness at all times. Whilst this has meant the crew has worked hard to maintain this, we were able to balance the materiel maintenance of the ship with a sustained fighting edge, whilst ensuring internal routines maintained high morale. Equally, this extended period of readiness has increased the understanding of T45 capability, engineering and sustainability in this unique operational environment and reaffirmed to our international partners the capability of the Royal Navy. To say I am proud of what my team has achieved is an understatement; I have been privileged to command such a professional ship's company throughout a deployment of this nature and be here for the homecoming which is such a special day for us all."