HMS Atherstone has spent the last two weeks working in close company with the ships and staff of the Japanese 51st Mine Division in the waters of the Gulf.
The two Japanese Ships Bungo and Yaeyama and their Battle Staff led by Captain Yoshida, had deployed to the Gulf to take part in the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) this November.
HMS Atherstone, under the control of the Japanese Staff, for the purpose of the exercise, participated along with ships from a variety of nations from around the world.
Seeing an opportunity to enhance mutual understanding, HM Ships Atherstone and Shoreham each embedded one of their own Mine Warfare Officers in the Japanese Command Ship Bungo. Lieutenant Alex Coleman, the Operations Officer from HMS Atherstone was one of the lucky ones chosen to join the Staff for the exercise.
“To be at the forefront of UK and Japanese military co-operation was a fantastic opportunity. I enjoyed my time working onboard the Bungo, where the crew showed themselves to be extremely dedicated and exceptional hosts”.
After a successful exercise, HMS Atherstone challenged the JS Bungo to a friendly football match, which the Japanese Ship readily accepted.
Despite the best efforts of the Japanese, Atherstone’s Crew were victorious and after the main event, the two nations split into mixed teams for a further friendly match.
HMS Atherstone’s football team player-manager, AB(CIS) Ben Turner, 22 from Wigan said:
“The football match against the Japanese Ships was a great event. It brought the two nations together on a more personal level after successful mine hunting operations at sea. Both teams thoroughly enjoyed the game, exchanging crew t-shirts and other mementos afterwards.”
HMS Atherstone’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Simon Pressdee said:
“Working with the Japanese force has been a privilege and highly productive. Both sides have much to take away from the exercise, particularly as a result of the liaison officers embarking within the Staff for the duration. It’s great to know that we can work effectively together at sea and still enjoy some spirited competition ashore.”
Press Release; Image: Royal Navy