Cheers for HMS Dragon as she returns from eight-month deployment

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Sailors on board HMS Dragon have been reunited with their loved ones today after spending eight months at sea.

The Type 45 destroyer returned to Portsmouth this morning from her maiden deployment.

22/11/13  SB''Families and well wishers welcome the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon back to Portsmouth following it;s recent deployment to The Indian Ocean and The Mediterranean.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (133207-5)

22/11/13 SB''Families and well wishers welcome the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon back to Portsmouth following it;s recent deployment to The Indian Ocean and The Mediterranean.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (133207-5)

Eight months at sea saw the ship take part in maritime security and counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf.

She has also been on operations in the Mediterranean as part of the UK response to the crisis in the Middle East.

But now, the ship’s company are celebrating being home in time for Christmas.

Family members shed tears of joy as the sailors rushed off the ship and into the arms of their loved ones.

22/11/13  SB''Families and well wishers welcome the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon back to Portsmouth following it;s recent deployment to The Indian Ocean and The Mediterranean. Kayleigh Tomlin from Portsmouth waits with her son Charlie Tomlin (six), for his brother Lewis who is onboard.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (133207-14)

22/11/13 SB''Families and well wishers welcome the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon back to Portsmouth following it;s recent deployment to The Indian Ocean and The Mediterranean. Kayleigh Tomlin from Portsmouth waits with her son Charlie Tomlin (six), for his brother Lewis who is onboard.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (133207-14)

Captain Iain Lower, the commanding officer of HMS Dragon, told The News: ‘It really is great to be home.

‘It’s great to be back in time for Christmas and back with our families.

‘The ship has done such a fantastic job over the last eight months.

‘It has truly been a job well done by everybody on board.’

22/11/13  SB''Families and well wishers welcome the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon back to Portsmouth following it;s recent deployment to The Indian Ocean and The Mediterranean.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (133207-3)

22/11/13 SB''Families and well wishers welcome the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon back to Portsmouth following it;s recent deployment to The Indian Ocean and The Mediterranean.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (133207-3)

The ship marked her return by firing a 17-gun salute as she approached Portsmouth Harbour.

HMS Dragon’s mission was extended by a month after she was diverted to protect the UK military bases in Cyprus during recent tensions in Syria.

The destroyer had been on maritime security and anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf when it was sent to Cyprus to provide air defence and air surveillance for warships in the area.

Chief Petty Officer Lee Hampton, from Portsmouth, was welcomed home by his nine-week-old son Dante and his wife, Petty Officer Abby Hampton.

CPO Hampton had been flown home for the birth of his son but had only two weeks to spend with him before having to return to the ship.

He said: ‘It is absolutely amazing, eight months, nearly all the pregnancy I missed, they managed to let me go back for two weeks for the birth of my first son and now to see him back on the jetty, he’s almost double the size already.

‘I can’t wait to get home with the family, I’m really looking forward to it and to be home for Christmas, that really means a lot.’

· Watch: Royal Navy video captures homecoming excitement.

· Click here to read a series of special reports by defence correspondent Sam Bannister on board HMS Dragon in the Gulf.