Pictures: PO(Phot) Ray Jones, LA(Phot) Caroline Davies, and Carol Rashleigh
LET us hope that the dark clouds about to devour HMS Portland as she departed Plymouth today are not an ill omen for the ship and the 200 souls aboard.
The ship became the second Type 23 frigate to leave Devonport in four days.
Hot on the heels of HMS Somerset – bound for the warmth of the Gulf – Portland heads to expanses of the South Atlantic where she’ll take over from her sister HMS Richmond.
The seven-month tour of duty is the first by the second youngest Type 23 since a year-long revamp in Rosyth, followed by a 2013 spent regenerating and training for the mission which has now begun.
The family of CPO(Wtr) Kev Rashleigh wave goodbye to the senior rating and his ship
A small crowd braved the gathering storm to bid Portland farewell from Devil’s Point, Plymouth’s traditional send-off location.
There has been some media interest in the ship’s deployment thanks to the fact that Portland is the first major Royal Navy warship commanded by a female, Cdr Sarah West.
“I have been in the Navy for 18 years and taking this ship on deployment is the pinnacle of my career,” she said. “I have a great ship’s company and they are also looking forward to the deployment ahead.
With several commands under her belt – four minehunters, including eight and a half months in the Gulf in charge of HMS Pembroke – she knows, by and large, what the next seven months hold.
As does LS Graham Baring, an underwater warfare specialist, who’s spent one fewer year in the Mob than his commanding officer – although he’s never deployed to the South Atlantic before.
“It I an emotional time to see families waving you good bye from Devil’s Point, but I know the deployment will go quickly because we will be very busy.
“I’ll miss my wife Zoe. We said our goodbyes already at home. It’ll be great going to new places and sharing our knowledge with other navies. I’m excited about going and getting stuck in.’’
For a reasonable proportion of the frigate’s company this is their first deployment.
“I’m looking forward to doing everything the Navy offered – to travelling the world and doing an interesting and challenging job,” said 19-year-old ET(WE) Steven Webster from Chippenham.
“It won’t be easy not seeing my family for several months. But I’m looking forward to going seeing them on the jetty when we come back.”
Shipmate Wtr Hazel Hicks, 28, of Plymouth, has been in the Navy for two years and is also on her maiden deployment. She leaves behind her husband of six months, Darren.
“I’m used to travelling abroad and being away from my family. But being on a naval deployment is an unknown to me, therefore, it’s exciting and I’m keen to get going,” she said.