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HMS Enterprise is decommissioned

30 March 2023
HMS Enterprise’s 20-year Royal Navy career formally ended today at a decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth Naval Base.

The ship was the second of two Echo-class survey ships – alongside HMS Echo, which was retired last June – designed for hydrographic and oceanographic operations across the world.

Enterprise’s role as a survey vessel took her to the four corners of the globe – to Japan and the Pacific Rim, in the heat of the Gulf and Middle east, the icy waters of Norway and the High North, as far south as the Falklands, and especially in the Mediterranean and European waters.

In all, she steamed more than 500,000 miles.

Aside from her regular hydrographic duties – which included surveying Beirut harbour in the wake of the explosion which devastated their docks in August 2020 – Enterprise evacuated civilians from Libya amid civil unrest in 2014 and spent extensive periods supporting the international operation to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, which earned the ship the military’s highest peace prize, the Firmin Sword.

Commander Malcolm McCallum, Commanding Officer of HMS Enterprise, said: “It has been an absolute privilege to command this great ship and lead the men and women of her ship’s company for the last two years. Throughout her service over the last two decades she has continually punched above her weight, delivering real operational effect and representing the nation throughout the world. Her influence has been truly global.”

Admiral Sir Ian Forbes and the ship’s Lady Sponsor, Lady Sally Forbes, attended the decommissioning ceremony alongside previous Commanding Officers and ship’s company.

Petty Officer (HM) Ben Wansborough added: “I have served a total of nine years on board Enterprise in all rates and consequently she will always have a special place in my heart.

“I’m especially proud that my connection will remain as my daughter Eleanor was christened on board and her name is engraved into the ship’s bell.”

HMS Enterprise ventured closer to the North Pole than any other Royal Navy vessel in 2022, sailing within 1,000 miles of the top of the world. The ship headed into the Arctic to update charts and scientific understanding of waters increasingly patrolled by Royal Navy warships to maintain freedom of navigation of the High North.

After receiving specific training for the mission – which saw crew facing water and air temperatures just above freezing, even at the beginning of autumn – Enterprise made for the Barents Sea off the northern coast of Norway.

Passing 66.56° North crew painted the bull ring on the bow – known as a ‘blue nose’ – a traditional seafaring ceremony to designate a ship has sailed inside the Arctic.

Petty Officer (HM) Colman Smith, said: “I have served in the Royal Navy for 20 years, the same amount of time as Enterprise, and I have seen a massive change in the technology that surveyors use.

“Although sad to see a great ship that I have called home be decommissioned the future of military data gathering is bright due to the exciting new capabilities that the Royal Navy is developing.”

Enterprise and her sister Echo, which has already been paid off, are being replaced by the Navy’s Future Military Data Gathering Programme being introduced over the next 18 months, deploying specialist teams with state-of-the-art equipment, including drones and autonomous systems, on other vessels – including commercial ships – to gather the relevant information.

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