TEARS and cheers rang out across Portsmouth Harbour as HMS Diamond left for six months of patrols in the Middle East.
The third of the Royal Navy’s new £1bn Type 45 destroyers slipped her moorings at Portsmouth Naval Base to embark on her first operational deployment since joining the fleet last July.
Her patrols east of Suez come at a tense time, with the ongoing row over Iran’s nuclear programme and Western condemnation of the bloody violence in Syria.
The News understands from a source on the ship that she has sailed with extra ammunition stores in case the United Nations decides on a military intervention in the country.
‘We are ready for all of the likely scenarios we may encounter,’ Diamond’s commanding officer, Commander Ian Clarke declared yesterday.
But fears of a repeat of last year’s operations in Libya were not apparent among the dozens of relatives and friends who packed the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth to wave off the ship’s 190 sailors.
Nicky Cromie, 41, of Lee-on-the-Solent, and her three children – five-year-old twins Michael and Harry, and six-year-old Sophie – made their voices heard for Lieutenant Commander John Cromie, 41, the ship’s operations officer.
Nicky said: ‘It’s obviously very sad, especially for the kids, but we’ve got to get on with things and enjoy our time together.
‘We look forward to him coming home already.
‘He doesn’t want to be away from home but equally he’s looking forward professionally to doing a good job.’
Diamond is replacing her sister ship HMS Daring in the Gulf in what is a routine deployment for the navy.
The warship will also conduct anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.
Donna Mortimer, 26, of Gosport, waved farewell to her husband Able Seaman Aaron Mortimer.
She said: ‘He was looking forward to going. He went to the Falklands a few times before so this is a good change for him. They’ve got some nice things planned and nice places they are stopping in at.’
Next to her, holding up a sign saying ‘Have a Safe Trip’, was AB Mortimer’s friend and navy colleague Michael Logan, 28, of Gosport, who was there with his fiancee Daniela Montgomery, 29.
He said: ‘He’s going to be an usher at our wedding and thankfully he’ll be coming back just in time for it.
‘I first met Aaron on the train to Raleigh to do our training and we went on to Collingwood together.
‘We’re both communications specialists and we served on HMS Gloucester for two and half years together, so he’s one of my best friends.
‘In Gloucester, we went to the Falklands in 2009/2010 and 2011, so I’m pleased he’s going on a different deployment.
‘I wish him all the best and I look forward to seeing him when he’s back.’