Two Portsmouth-based frigates - HMS Iron Duke and HMS Richmond – returned home to cheering crowds of friends and families on Thursday following more than six months at sea.
They sailed into the naval base shortly before 11am to meet crowds of well wishers on the jetty, eager to see their loved ones following two very busy deployments.
HMS Iron Duke has spent almost seven months east of the Suez Canal, and will return on a high following several days on operations in Libya where she relieved HMS Liverpool, which has been operating off the coast of Libya for the past three months.
For three consecutive nights HMS Iron Duke used her awesome firepower capabilities to destroy a gun battery outside the besieged town of Misrata and fired star shells into the night sky to illuminate pro-Gadaffi positions for NATO aircraft to destroy rocket launchers, fuel dumps, ammo stores, artillery batteries and command and control centres.
HMS Richmond’s tasks have been no less varied – the Type-23 frigate has been on a seven-month deployment that has seen the ship operating as far east as Brunei and as far south as the Seychelles, deep into the Indian Ocean.
After leaving Portsmouth in January, Richmond spent the first two months on counter-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa.
The embarked Royal Marine and Royal Navy boarding teams investigated suspicious vessels and reassured fishermen and local dhows with their presence.
On top of the counter-piracy tasking, HMS Richmond escorted a cargo vessel filled with humanitarian aid from the UN’s World Food Programme into Somalia – providing the hungry with nine million meals.
The frigate then made a series of port stops at Salah in Oman, Djibouti, and also the Seychelles where the ship provided expert advice on piracy and gave engineering support to the Seychelles Coastguard - key partners in fighting piracy in the region.
The visit was also timed to coincide with the International Carnival of the Sea; this large event is primarily designed to advertise the Seychelles as a tourist and business attraction on the world stage with warships from Russia and India also present.
For one sailor from HMS Iron Duke, the homecoming was extra special –after he proposed to his girlfriend on the jetty and she accepted.
Able Seaman Adam ‘Bing’ Crosby, 26 asked long-term girlfriend Hollie Walls from Birkdale, Southport, to marry him moments after stepping off the ship. Clutching a large bunch of flowers she accepted immediately.