Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Royal Navy engineer relives coming under fire in Libya

Marine engineer Daniel Smowton
Image caption The marine engineer said he was scared when the ship came under fire

A sailor from Hampshire who was serving on board a warship in Libya has told of his fear when his vessel was fired upon.

HMS Liverpool has just returned to Portsmouth from the Mediterranean where it became the first Royal Navy ship to come under fire since the Falklands conflict in 1982.

Marine engineer Daniel Smowton, who is from Southampton, said: "I was scared the first time we were fired upon because I didn't know where the missile would land and I remember thinking it could hit where I was down in the steering gear compartment.

"Thankfully it missed."

Operating close to the Libyan coastline, the 4,800 tonne Type-42 destroyer was deliberately targeted by pro-Gaddafi forces who fired rocket and artillery batteries on at least ten occasions.

The crew responded by using the destroyer's 4.5 inch gun against targets on the shore.

The vessel and its 250-stong crew finally arrived at their home base in Portsmouth on Monday morning after seven months away. They were greeted by about 1,300 wellwishers, family and friends.

Engineer Smowton, 22, joined the Royal Navy in 2006, completing his basic training at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall. His career has taken him around the world, including Brazil and the United States.

The Southampton FC fan and former Western Park Boys School pupil helps maintain the diesel generators and the ship's propulsion system, among other things. He also has special responsibility for helping with the sea boat, which is used by the crew's boarding teams when they inspect other ships.

Image caption The warship helped enforce the no-fly zone over Libya

He said: "I'm proud to have helped make a difference by helping protect Libyan civilians.

"While I'm away, I miss my family and girlfriend and I miss going to football every Saturday to support Southampton FC."

HMS Liverpool sailed from the UK in March to support NATO's efforts to prevent the flow of arms to the Gaddafi regime by boarding and inspecting merchant vessels and helping to maintain the No Fly Zone by directing UK and allied aircraft.

The ship's fighter controllers spent 360 hours controlling 14 different types of aircraft from various NATO countries.

HMS Liverpool's commanding officer, Commander Colin Williams, says: "In their efforts to protect the Libyan people and enforce the will of the United Nations, the ship's company proved their grit and determination.

"I know that our families and well wishers will be as proud of them as I am and we arrive home as a ship at the top of her game."

Despite spending more than 81 hours at Action Stations on the recent mission, HMS Liverpool is due to be decommissioned next year after one final visit to the city which shares its name.

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