Royal Navy minehunter returns from Gulf duty


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The Independent Online

A sailor has been reunited with his baby daughter after spending more than seven months at sea on board a Royal Navy mine hunter.

Deputy marine engineer chief petty officer Mike Jack, 35, from Largoward, Fife, had to leave six-week-old Eilidh when he was deployed to the Arabian Gulf with HMS Pembroke in January.

On seeing her today, he said Eilidh, who is now nine months old, had become "huge".

A crowd of about 100 family members and friends gathered at HM Naval Base Clyde, in Faslane, Argyll, this morning, to watch the ship come in.

The crew were given a hero's welcome as they stepped on to the dock, greeted with balloons, banners which said "Welcome Home Daddy" and other gifts.

HMS Pembroke was returning from a mission in the Middle East ensuring safe passage for merchant and civilian vessels.

It was manned by seven different crews during the near four-year operation.

For many of the sailors, it was the first time they had seen their families since they left in January.

Mr Jack, who was also welcomed home by his wife Alison, 38, stepson Jack, 10, and nine-year-old daughter Holly, said: "She (Eilidh) was six weeks old when I left, so I was just feeding her her first bottle the night before we went away.

"It was really hard. It's the first time I've had to do it - to go away and leave a little one. She's huge now.

"We just need to hand the ship over and we'll be off on leave.

"I can't wait, I've got nine weeks off so she'll get used to me hopefully by then."

After leaving Bahrain five weeks ago, HMS Pembroke was making its 7,000-mile journey home when it was deployed again on July 27 to help guard a merchant vessel from the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

The ship, Delhi Express, suffered an engine failure between Somalia and Yemen, an area where pirates are known to operate, and put out a call for help.

HMS Pembroke and sister ship HMS Middleton readied their weapons and guarded the vessel until it got moving again.

Lieutenant Commander Chris Allan, commanding officer of HMS Pembroke, said: "It was just a single incident in a packed deployment, but a memorable one.

"I think what it shows is the flexibility of the minehunting community and why the Royal Navy is as valuable today as it ever was."

Lt Cmdr Allan, 38, who is originally from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, but now lives in Portsmouth, Hampshire, said he was looking forward to spending time with his wife during his leave from the ship.