- Anderson, Mark, B.Sc. (Hons), Captain, RN
- Ship histories and stories, 21st century wars/conflict
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Anzac III, HMAS Darwin, HMAS Kanimbla II
- September 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
At 1800C the Battery Commander on the ground released NGS shipping and Chatham and Richmond withdrew to open water. Marlborough waited until closer to high water, withdrawing at 2300C and passing the Mine Counter Measures (MCM) formation of five ships inbound into the KAA waterway! ANZAC, having undertaken the first Australian NGS since Vietnam, volunteered to remain overnight, providing cover until withdrawing in the morning of 23 Mar.
23 March – 2 April: Subsequent Operations in the NAG.
Overnight 22/23 Mar., Marlborough cleared to the south and conducted a Replenishment with USS Pecos before returning as Scene of Action Commander for the Northern area, continuing surveillance and security operations in the KAA approaches. Special forces boarding teams had discovered numerous mines on tugs, barges and patrol craft in the KAA and at Umm Qasr, and any such vessel within the Northern Arabian Gulf was subjected to rigorous scrutiny and boarding. Fishing and commercial traffic in coastal waters had died away almost entirely which left the waters to the densely packed Coalition Force, still pressed close up to the Iraqi coast line, as the MCM effort progressed and amphibious shipping continued to build up force levels on the land.
On 23 Mar both RM Protection Teams were disembarked to HMAS Kanimbla along with one boat and a chef, to provide force protection for the MCMVs as they cleared the KAA. The mine-hunting effort had begun on 22 Mar with airborne MCM passing some 60 yards astern of Marlborough (on the gunline) with an influence sweep.
Over subsequent days coastal traffic remained minimal but the number of Coalition ships remaining in close proximity remained high. Overnight 25/26 Mar saw the weather deteriorate rapidly, with 40kt winds, rain and electrical storms as a particularly active front passed across the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG). As the winds veered through south to NW, visibility reduced to half a mile in a sandstorm that lasted most of the day.
Traffic remained light in the northern areas as Marlborough handed over duties as Scene of Action Commander to Richmond on 27 Mar and departed for Replenishment with RFA Fort Austin. In the event visibility prevented an underway Replenishment and Marlborough rafted up to the anchored RFA Fort Austin in 20kts of wind. On 28 Mar Marlborough distributed stores and mail to the TU from RFA Grey Rover and the opportunity was taken for a Photography Exercise with the four ships of the TU. HMS York had now been repositioned to the Northern Areas to counter the still present missile threat.
Operations in the NAG had now died down considerably and it was evident that there were too many ships for too few tasks. In the afternoon of 31 Mar, Marlborough received a signal from the UK Maritime Component Commander programming the ship to leave the Northern Areas and undertake a 3 day Self Maintenance Period in Bahrain, prior to departing the Gulf and preparation for taking up some part of the original programmed deployment, in company with HMS Liverpool and an RFA.
Having completed a successful Self Maintenance Period in Bahrain, Marlborough departed and once again headed north, this time to the Central Arabian Gulf where she rendezvoused with RFA Fort Victoria to take on stores and re-distribute weaponry. Once completed, Marlborough turned south to navigate the Straits of Hormuz and leave the Arabian Gulf.
There was time now to reflect upon the import of what had been undertaken and upon those who had not been as fortunate as we had. It was clear that operations were progressing within Iraq and that we, together with Chatham, Richmond and ANZAC and our American Coastguard friends had made a significant contribution. There was a mixture of emotions to be dealt with: sorrow at the loss of comrades; pride in a job professionally completed; guilt at leaving other comrades working hard in the northern areas; and gratitude for the reduction in working tempo. Prior to reaching Bahrain, the ship had been constantly at sea for some 75 days.
As the ship prepared to leave to the Joint Operating Area, a Memorial Service was convened and held on the ship’s flight deck out of respect and in memory of those who had fallen in the conflict to date. Our thoughts were very much with those who had given their lives and with their families and loved ones who had suffered such loss. The Service was traditional. As we looked on the half-masted ensign, the names of the fallen were called out. The Captain recited the traditional Remembrance passage and as the Last Post faded across the water, some 500 miles from land, it became the turn of a new generation to have renewed cause to remember.
(Amongst other impressive achievements, promotions and selected postings in his career, Captain Anderson won the Queen’s Sword during his early training at BRNC, Dartmouth in 1978. Ed)