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Ahoy there! More news from our favourite HMS CHiddingfold.

It's my pleasure to introduce myself as Nick Ward; at present I'm one of two Young Officers (YOs) on board who are currently training for our 'Officer of the Watch' exams in July. As YOs we are given various extra responsibilities on board to broaden our professional knowledge, and one of these for me, is to be the assistant affiliate officer for this ship. Therefore over the next few months I will be liaising with you and the Hunt and look forward to it.

Firstly, thank you very much for your letter [from Sally Cripps] and the DVD which has been watched by the Wardroom. I think the general consensus was that there is a lot more to a hunt than just the hunting itself; obviously a lot of work goes into the preparation with the hounds - something we didn't really appreciate.

As you may have heard in the news, Bahrain is pretty lively at the moment. Luckily this has not affected the ship's programme as we are now alongside for a maintenance period of at least a month. The demonstrations have mainly affected the ship's company as leave restrictions have been put in force. Fortunately these have started to lift and the crew are now able to go out and enjoy themselves for some hard-earned relaxation! During the month we have been out here, our time has mainly been spent at sea, conducting trails and tests to make sure the ship and its crew are ready for the next stage of our deployment aftre the maintenance pertiod. This included diving, damag-control exercises and acoustic and magnetic ranging.

As we are alongside, it has been a great opportunity for the ship's company to start something new for the month; many of the crew have been able to take up physical training with buses departing in the early morning from the ship to the American base. We have also been hard at work forming a ship's rugby team and are hoping to play some local sides. However, we all need a bit more practice...

Even though we have just arrived out here most of the crew are looking forward to the next phases of the deployment and eventually to returning home in august. Of course, once we arrive back in Portsmouth we shall look forward to hosting members of the hunt on board to renew ties. as the ship has been out in the Arabian Gulf for so long I realise that, although we have kept in touch by correspondence, the Hunt's members have not seen 'their' ship for some time. I have already had interest from the crew about the possibility of looking around the kennels, so thank you for your kind offer.

I can see from your website that the Hunt has had a busy February. As you may have seen from the Royal Navy website (and lately BBC News) that the mine hunters stationed out in Bahrain have been rather busy as well. The RN website is due for an overhaul later on this year, after which information on HMS CHIDDINGFOLD's operations should be more accessible.

I hope all is well with you and the Hunt and we look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Nicholas Ward

Midshipman RN