One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
HMS Westminster Returns to Portsmouth
HMS Westminster has returned home to Portsmouth today following a six-and-a-half month deployment to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.
The Type 23 frigate divided her time between the Indian Ocean where she conducted counter-piracy and counter-narcotics patrols and the Gulf where she carried out maritime security patrols and exercises with allies.
HMS Westminster left Portsmouth on a hot summer's day in August and during her time away has visited 11 different ports in eight countries en route to and while operating in the Middle East, steaming 36,500 nautical miles in the process.
The ship has worked with various regional and coalition navies including those from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, India, Tanzania, France and United States, as well as Italy and Greece in the Mediterranean.
One notable success for Westminster was a three-day stop in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania where her Royal Marines and Royal Navy boarding teams conducted training with counterparts from the Tanzania Maritime Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET).
Soon after completing the training, the detachment seized its first cargo of illicit drugs.
Westminster's ship's company also found time in Dar Es Salaam to work with the charity 'Kidz Care' which builds schools for children orphaned by HIV.
During security patrols HMS Westminster boarded or visited 348 dhows and skiffs, promoting security and reassuring the regional maritime community.
One such operation took place in the Gulf of Aden during the transit back to the UK.
A concerned merchant vessel reported suspicious activity on her VHF radio and within 17 minutes HMS Westminster's Lynx helicopter was above the scene reassuring the vessel and preventing any incident.
Westminster's Commanding Officer, Captain Hugh Beard, said:
"Westminster has achieved a tremendous amount during this deployment, promoting maritime security in the Middle East, but also training with regional nations to develop their own security capabilities. Although we did not seize any illicit cargo or pirates during our operations, the significant drop in piracy in the region continues to prove that our tactics are working. After a job well done we are all looking forward to getting back home to see our family and friends."
Leading Seaman (Communications and Information Systems) Jay Burgess said:
"This deployment has been enjoyable and challenging at the same time. It has been very beneficial to work alongside other navies, learning how we operate with them, particularly from my specialist background."
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