HMS Bulwark enjoyed her final homecoming this decade when she sailed back into Devonport after her autumn amphibious deployment.
The assault ship now goes into hibernation as her older sister Albion – crewed by many ex-Bulwarkers – takes over as the Navy’s on-call assault ship.
Pictures: CPO(Phot) Nick Tryon, PO(Phot) Si Ethell and LPhot Caroline Davies
YOU won’t see this again this decade: sailors wearing the cap tally ‘HMS Bulwark’ delighted to be home from deployment.
After five years always on-call as the nation’s amphibious assault ship, ready to respond to global events, Bulwark took her bow after an 87-day autumn deployment with the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force task group in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Around 600 family members were waiting in Devonport to greet the 20,000-tonne leviathan, which was also treated to a helicopter fly-past, a landing craft sail-past and gun salute.
Heidi Curry and Ruby Cox aged seven can’t wait for some hug time…
Mne Barry Cannon, from Plymouth, swept his twin sons Jack and Oliver, aged three, off their feet as they gave him a loud welcome.
“It’s really good to be back home,” said Barry, who operates landing craft with Bulwark’s dedicated assault group. “The boys have changed a bit – they are talking a lot more now they’ve started nursery since I’ve been away. To be honest I’ve missed them ever since I left on the deployment.’’
His wife Kirsty added: “For the first time now the boys are old enough to understand Christmas… although they thought daddy was out catching pirates with Father Christmas! Barry’s been on this deployment for about four times over four years, but it’s wonderful he’s back in time for the Christmas break.’’
First off the ship – courtesy of a charity auction aboard – to rush onto the jetty and into the arms of his girlfriend Danielle, 22, and his baby daughter Daisy was 25-year-old Std Mike Howell.
Danielle said: “It’s double celebration today – Daisy’s first birthday and her dad back home with us. We’ll have a really good Christmas now he’s home. But it will have to wait until after the 25th because, unfortunately, he’s on duty over Christmas.’’
Come the new year, life aboard Bulwark will begin to wind down as she goes into extended readiness like HMS Albion before her, which has been out of action since 2011. She emerges from her refit and rejuvenation in 2017 to carry the assault ship 'baton'.
Bulwark’s last active act for now was a series of exercises off Albania, Egypt and finally in Oman before offering some training to the coastguard of Somaliland and flying the flag for the UK on a short visit to Haifa in Israel.
“Bulwark has had a fantastic deployment,” said her CO Capt James Parkin, “and my sailors and Royal Marines have been outstanding ambassadors for the United Kingdom.
“They, and their forebears over the past five years, have delivered a ship with an outstanding reputation for getting the job done in the Royal Navy and far beyond.
“My amazing ship’s company now deserve a special Christmas with their families and friends.’’