Return from a 5 month long mission in the Persian Gulf

The 'Wielingen' returns to Zeebrugge
With Naval precision, frigate F910 "Wielingen" entered the basin of the Zeebrugge Naval base on
exactly the stroke of 10 am, at the end of a 162 day mission in the Gulf, as part of Operation

Southern Breeze. Dozens of banners, flowers and balloons, and music from the band of the

Belgian Navy provided a fitting backdrop for the ships eagerly-awaited return since it left from
the same basin on 7th January of this year.
Vice-admiral Jozef De Wilde, the Naval Chief of Staff, had joined the frigate while it was still at
sea. According to an old naval tradition, he thenleft the ship to make way for the wife of the
ship's commanding officer,Commander Gilbert Decock. A few minutes later, the 160 members of
the crew rushed towards theirwaiting families, leaving it to their commander to tell the
journalists everything they had been unable to learn over the previous 5 monthsfrom the
sometimes very confused channels of information of the National Defence Command.
The "Wielingen" checked a total of 1,011 ships as part of the enforcementof the economic
blockade of Iraq . On thirteen occasions, members of thecrew had to board ships in order to
check their cargo and papers. The most dramatic intervention of the operation took place on 10
Februarywhen the crew of the "Wielingen" saved twenty six people from the sea following the
sinking of the Turkish merchant ship ‘EREGLI’ off the coast of Yemen.
And it should not be forgotten that there was also a war going on. "Yes, we lived through that
war. Even if the "Wielingen" was neverinvolved in any fighting", claimed Commander De Cock. It
now transpires that Scud missiles passed within only thirty nautical miles of the ship. There were
also mines everywhere. Even though nothing remained ofSaddam Hussein's navy, we had to be
on the lookout for small craft thatapproached to within a few fathoms of the ships. In mid May,
shots werefired between one of these craft and an American war ship! As for aircraft, we had to
identify them all as a matter of caution. Finally, the "Wielingen" also had the honour of
"protecting" the "Nimitz", the largest American aircraft carrier in the Gulf, for two days… all of
which information has remained top secret up until now !

Le Soir : Belgian daily newspaper, 18 June 1991.

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