Galway Girl Ed Sheeran
Royal Navy minehunter HMS Middleton returns to Portsmouth after spending three years on operations in the Gulf.
The ship operated out of Bahrain conducting counter-piracy and security patrols and exercises with coalition forces.
She was part of a four-strong RN mine warfare force which is permanently based at Mina Salman, helping to keep sea lanes open and promote close working relationships with local and visiting navies.
Her 40 crew have changed every six to eight months and have often endured temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius, winds of 50 mph and 20-ft waves.
Since January this year the current ship's company has been involved in high-tempo operations and strategically-important exercises.
The work included providing force protection to the MV New Delhi Express to ensure its safe passage through the Gulf of Aden and training with coalition allies to find and destroy sea mines.
While returning to the UK, Middleton visited Valletta in Malta for the 70th anniversary commemoration of Op Pedestal - the seminal point of the Malta Convoys' mission of WWII - in which mine warfare vessels played a vital role.
The event was marked by a visit to the ship from First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the Prime Minister of Malta and several surviving heroes of the campaign.
Middleton's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Steve Higham, said:
"My team have had the honour of serving in Middleton for over eight months during which we have conducted missions across the military spectrum. We have trained hard with other navies and proven the Royal Navy's ability to find and destroy sea mines in the most challenging of conditions.
"Throughout, HMS Middleton's ship's company have conducted themselves with fortitude and determination. Acting as ambassadors for Britain, they have been a credit to their country and the Royal Navy. The separation has been hard, the distances great, but the encouragement and support of families has been key to our success and I know everyone is looking forward to a few weeks of thoroughly well-deserved leave."