The Royal Navy minehunter HMS Middleton is paying a five-day visit over the weekend, to coincide with today’s centenary of the Voe Bakery.
Crewmembers from the vessel, as well as visiting Voe, staged a reception and “capability demonstration” at the TA Hall in Lerwick, while a corps of drummers from HM Royal Marines Scotland put on a nifty routine in Fort Charlotte.
The 52.5-metre ship arrived in Lerwick Harbour on Thursday morning and berthed at Victoria Pier where she was open to the public on Friday from 10am to 5pm.
HMS Middleton, which was built 35 years ago, and has a glass-reinforced plastic hull to conceal her from sea-mines. She underwent a major refit recently including the installation of new engines, which will see her life extended by at least another 15 years.
Normally stationed at Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf, the vessel has been working with Americans doing multi-national exercises in the Straits of Hormuz.
Her primary mine-hunting weapon is the Sea Fox, which is remotely controlled with an HD camera on it. It is launched after a mine is identified by sonar. If the camera shows it to be a mine, another Sea Fox with a charge in its nose is launched to destroy it. Thousands of mines are are in the straits and often dredged up by fishermen
The crew includes a dive team of seven who can dive to depth of 60 metres if a mine cannot be identified by the Sea Fox, and there is a decompression chamber on board.
There is a large cannon at the bow of the ship, guns either side of the bridge and one on the boat deck. The guns are manned every time the vessel comes into port (including Lerwick).
The presentation at the TA Hall on Saturday afternoon was introduced by Captain Chris Smith, who described the visit as “one of the great jobs” for him. It had been nine years since a British warship last visited Lerwick, a sight once commonplace in the days of HMS Shetland.
He said the visit had come about following a letter from the Voe Bakery, as 100 years ago the bakery had served the Royal Navy’s 10th cruiser squadron, which operated out of Olna Firth.
“We were given 18 months notice to get a ship here,” Capt Smith said. “We’re really grateful to the Voe Bakery. Since 1915 Shetland has played a big part in the Royal Navy with its involvement including the First World War and the Shetland Bus.
“The relationship is unique and we are hugely proud of it, although we do not see as much of you as we would want.”
HMS Middleton‘s own captain Andy Smith said it was great to be bringing the ship all the way to Shetland, and it gave people a chance to see the “modern Royal Navy”.