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HMS Grimsby’s cold spring hones minehunting skills in sub-zero conditions

HMS Grimsby’s cold spring hones minehunting skills in sub-zero conditions
NATO duties in the Arctic and Baltic are over for the crew of HMS Grimsby, whose ship has completed her time with an international minehunting force.

The Faslane-based warship became the latest RN vessel attached to NATO’s permanent minehunting force in northern Europe waters, SNMCMG 1.

Grimsby took her place alongside allied ships from Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Belgium and Denmark, ranging from the Skagerrak and Kattegat to the Arctic Circle off the Norwegian coast.

The most demanding and varied element of her deployment was joining forces massed for the largest exercise hosted by Norway in 30 years, Cold Response: 27,000 personnel (3,000 of them Royal Navy), more than two dozen ships from nearly a dozen nations.

The minehunting force was called upon to clear routes for larger vessels – such as UK amphibious flagship which sailed up the fjords to land Royal Marines.

The exercise not only showcased the unique capabilities of Grimsby and the mine warfare group, able to navigate through the tight Norwegian fjords and inner leads where larger ships would be unable to follow, but also the ‘sum is greater than the parts’ element of working as a group, clearing much broader tracts of water than individual vessels might achieve.

HMS Grimsby was still able to demonstrate her lethality (within the confines of the exercise admittedly): she claimed the only ‘kill’ of an ‘enemy’ surface combatant by a minehunter, with a Norwegian Skjold-class fast patrol ship dispatched by the superb marksmanship of the gunnery team.
The Brits also worked with the Estonian Navy, carrying one of the latter’s REMUS 100 autonomous sonar system to scan waters for mines – without risking sailing a ship into a possible minefield.

 “As the ship’s diving officer, it was great to see the novel ways in which our dive team were able to work both with new systems and with our NATO allies too,” said Lt Dan Earland, who’s also Grimsby’s operations officer.

“It hasn’t always been easy in the extreme conditions of the High North but the team stepped up to the plate with gusto.”

Working in such a cold and sometimes inhospitable environment has been demanding for Grimsby at times, but it also gave her crew were able to have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of travelling to wild places usually untouched by tourists: catching the Northern Lights, skiing and snowboarding, and also sailing up Geirangerfjord – between Bergen and Trondheim, a UNESCO World Heritage site beloved by cruise ships.

It was, said mine warfare specialist Able Seaman Tommy Maclean, “probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been,” as the ship glided between sheer cliffs and snow-capped peaks of the fjord.

After concluding her work in the High North the NATO minehunting force headed south for Danish waters and the southern Kattegat.
A highlight of this included a ‘Swedish Tennis Court’ Exercise, in which task group ships were divided into teams and were tasked with detecting other units, whilst remaining undetected themselves in order to score a ‘kill’.

“This sort of exercise was great as it really encouraged some lateral thinking, such as how best to use geography and topography to our advantage, and also how to deceive and confuse the ‘enemy’,” said Grimsby’s Navigating Officer, Lieutenant Jack Patterson.

“It’s not often that mine countermeasures vessels take part in scenarios like this so it was good to experience a different type of warfare than the minehunting that we’re more used to.”

Grimsby is now home in Faslane undergoing maintenance before her next tasking.


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