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HMS Westminster returns to Portsmouth after demanding submarine hunting mission

7 January 2022
A Royal Navy frigate returned to Portsmouth today after five months on a critical patrol safeguarding UK waters and keeping a close eye on submarines on operations as far north as the Arctic Circle.

Sailors of HMS Westminster spent the festive period away from their loved ones on patrol after being at sea almost constantly since deploying last summer to guard the UK’s ‘back yard’ and work with allies to monitor any potential threats lurking beneath the waves.

Westminster has been at the tip of the nation’s submarine hunting spear as the Royal Navy’s TAPS – the Towed-Array Patrol Ship – that is part of a comprehensive protective ring around waters key to UK interests, determined to keep the prying eyes of hostile submarines at bay.

The Type 23 frigate has patrolled vast areas of the Atlantic using her state-of-the-art weapons and sensors to track submarine movements but also escort ships through waters closer to UK shores.

Families gathered at Round Tower to welcome sailors home from their mission, waving them in as they entered Portsmouth Harbour.

Commanding Officer, Commander Louise Ray, said: “It is occasions like these that remind all of my team that we would struggle to do what we do without the support of our families and friends.  

“Waving to all of those who were on the hot walls and Round Tower today is really important and I thank them, and all of our friends and family who could not make the journey, for the support they show us each and every day when we are deployed.”

Westminster spent 121 days of their 151-day deployment at sea, sailing 24,000 nautical miles and stopping in Hamburg in Germany, Trondheim in Norway and Reykjavik in Iceland along the way.
Their operations were diverse, from May Day calls for missing paddle boarders in the Irish Sea to monitoring surfaced Russian submarines as they transited through the Strait of Dover.

The frigate had on board a Merlin helicopter – Kingfisher Flight of Culdrose-based 814 Naval Air Squadron, which uses both sonobuoy listening devices dropped into the ocean and sonar lowered as the helicopter hovers to pinpoint a submarine’s presence.

Westminster spent Christmas alongside in Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, which included a bracing open water swim for some hardy sailors.

After New Year’s anchored off St Ives, the frigate completed exercises off the South Coast before heading for home. 

Plymouth-based HMS Northumberland will now take up the mantle as Towed-Array Patrol Ship, with Westminster undergoing a short period of planned maintenance and her sailors getting some well-earned leave.

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