They have spent months at sea playing a vital role in the fight against Isil extremists in the Gulf.
Now two Royal Navy warships are back alongside in Portsmouth after a double homecoming celebration.
HMS Kent and HMS Dauntless returned to the city on Friday to cheers and colourful flag-waving from hundreds of their family and friends.
Spirits were pushed even higher after the first sailor to disembark from HMS Dauntless got down on bended knee and proposed to his girlfriend.
The frigate and destroyer have both been involved in protecting allied nations’ aircraft carriers as they launch strikes against Isil in Iraq.
Commander Adrian Fryer, the commanding officer of Dauntless, told The News: ‘My ship’s company has been playing a crucial role out in the Middle East.
‘HMS Dauntless is an air defence destroyer and she is designed to provide defence to one ship, two ships or a task group in our case.
My ship’s company has been playing a crucial role out in the Middle EastCommander Adrian Fryer
‘We’ve been protecting an American aircraft carrier and her task group from threats whether it be air, surface or sub-surface out in the Middle East while she’s been conducting her counter-terrorist actions out there.
Cdr Fryer said he felt privileged and proud to command his ship in that role – as the Americans do not trust the security of their carrier groups to just anyone.
He added: ‘The American aircraft carriers are very big and are a national asset to the Americans, but they trusted us very quickly and it just shows how good the Royal Navy is after how quickly we integrated with the Americans and how much trust they put into us from day one.
‘This is very good preparation for when we operate with our own aircraft carriers in the future.’
HMS Dauntless deployed to the Gulf in January and supported the French and US navies by providing air defence cover.
Her deployment also included a visit to Kuwait, where she hosted a reception for Prince Charles.
HMS Kent became the first British warship to sail into the Gulf as part of a joint British/French carrier task group when she acted as anti-submarine warfare commander for French carrier Charles de Gaulle.
The role saw the ship protecting the carrier and battle group vessels from underwater threats while the carrier launched strikes against Isil in Iraq.
She also worked with the US carrier USS Carl Vinson.
Commander Andrew Block, the commanding officer of HMS Kent, said: ‘I was hugely proud of my team.
‘Their performance was beyond what I could have expected.’
Grey skies were not enough to dampen cheerful spirits on the jettyside at Portsmouth Naval Base as the two ships returned home within minutes of each other.
There was a fly past from the two Lynx helicopters embarked on each ship and the usual rousing performance from the Royal Marines Band.
Out of my way, he’s home!
OUT of my way, my dad comes home today!
Those were the words emblazoned on the chest of three-year-old Finlay Steenvoorden who was waiting eagerly for Petty Officer Karl Steenvoorden to step off HMS Dauntless.
Quality family time lies ahead for them, as mum Donna has herself just left the navy and is looking forward to some time at home with her husband and son.
‘It’s been a long few months and I’m so glad to have him home now,’ said Donna, 37, from Fareham.
‘I’m looking forward to us all spending some time as a family now.’
PO Steenvoorden has spent the past four years with HMS Dauntless but is now looking forward to a new role at HMS Collingwood in Fareham.
‘I’m really happy to be home,’ said the 32-year-old.
‘It’s been a good deployment but I’m looking forward to having some rest and some family time now.’
Maddie thrilled to be reunited with her teddy – and her dad
YOUNG Maddie Gordon was beaming as she clutched hold of her teddy bear – and her dad – as they enjoyed their own double homecoming.
Maddie gave the bear named Jack to her father, Leading Photographer Ian Simpson when he went to sea with HMS Kent.
L(Phot) Simpson, pictured with Maddie and the bear, is a member of the navy’s photographic branch, and deploys with ships to capture images of their operations around the world.
After beginning his time at sea with HMS Kent, he later transferred to HMS Dauntless before returning home on board the destroyer.
He said: ‘It was a good deployment and I’m glad to be home now. It’s been fun taking Jack the bear around the world for Maddie.’
The 37-year-old, from Portsmouth, took the bear to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and other landmarks around the world and sent pictures back to Maddie.
Additional reporting by Stuart Anderson