Army uniforms following hounds have been a common sight for centuries, but less familiar are those of the Royal Navy.

Yet the fleet has enjoyed close links with hunts since the first 20 hunt-class ships were launched in World War I to clear the seas of mines.

Today, eight hunt-class ships remain — HMS Atherstone, Brocklesby, Cattistock, Chiddingfold, Hurworth, Ledbury, Middleton and Quorn.

Of the first 20 hunt-class vessels, the Belvoir group, HMS Blackmorevale was sunk in 1918 and the rest decommissioned in the 1920s, but the names were revived through the hunt-class destroyers of World War II.

The current group of vessels was launched in the 1980s. Their role is to hunt for mines using high-definition sonar and act as patrol craft.

The hulls are glass-reinforced plastic, which is strong enough to withstand the explosions when the mines are destroyed and cuts the magnetic signature of the ship.

Two ships, at present HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Middleton, are always in the Gulf and the crews are regularly transferred between ships.

For the full feature on hunt-class ships, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (11 August, 2011)