March sailor returns home after mine clearing mission to Libya

A Royal Navy sailor from March has returned home to his wife and two daughters after a five-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Libya with HMS Brocklesby.

A Royal Navy sailor from March has returned home to his wife and two daughters after a five-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Libya with HMS Brocklesby.

Petty Officer (Mine Warfare) Scott Barnes, 38, was part of a team on board the minehunter who successfully located and destroyed a buoyant mine deliberately placed in the port of Misurata by pro-Gaddaffi forces to stop ships carrying humanitarian aid into the country.

His wife Anne and daughters Caitlin, six, and Olivia, two, were part of a huge crowd of well wishers who cheered the ship into Portsmouth Naval Base on her return.

PO Barnes said: 'We were at the front line of operation in Libya. Usually when we hunt for mines we're doing it on exercises so it was fantastic to be involved in the real thing and to see it all coming together - from locating the mine to destroying it.

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'By destroying the mine we allowed the port to be opened up for ships carrying aid and supplies – and it is very special to know that we were the ship that made this happen.

'It has been a fantastic experience and one that I am incredibly proud to have been a part of – but I am definitely looking forward to getting home and seeing my family. Their support while I've been away has been unwavering – it's the most important thing when you're away at sea to know that you have them to come back to.'

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As HMS Brocklesby sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base, she flew her own version of the Jolly Roger black flag – a signal that HMS Brocklesby had successfully destroyed enemy targets in Libya - in this case the buoyant mine.

HMS Brocklesby's Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Jim Byron said: 'The Royal Navy has always had a great reputation for mine clearance and it is precisely this type of operation that shows the world just how good we are.

'We are extremely proud that we could use our skills and knowledge to open that port and allow humanitarian aid back into Libya where it is so desperately needed. Without this capability there could have been hundreds of lives lost through the detonation of that mine. I am so proud of my team – they just got on and did their business and they did it really really well.'

At the end of April HMS Brocklesby began clearing the port of Misurata from mines after NATO forces spotted pro-Gaddaffi forces laying the explosive devices.

The minehunter then stayed in the harbour area for a further six days in range of hostile troops to continue the search for any further mines that would stop the vital aid from reaching Libyan citizens.

Commander-In-Chief Fleet, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar went out to meet HMS Brocklesby as she sailed home on Monday (July 4), calling her the 'jewel in the crown of operations in Libya.'

'I wanted to pay tribute and say how proud I am of the effort and professionalism the ship's company has demonstrated over the past 155 days,' he said.

'Brocklesby originally sailed to work with NATO on a series of exercises but was quickly re-tasked, showing the flexibility and determination of our personnel, all of them have done exceedingly well.'

HMS Brocklesby spent her last few weeks patrolling and minehunting in the waters off the Misurata coastline as the threat of mines and waterborne IEDs remains high.

With the port open again there are plenty of ships sailing in and out so it was important for the crew to make sure the waters were free of explosives.

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