THE captain of Britain’s newest warship has praised his crew’s courage for risking their lives in the war against Islamist extremists in the Middle East.
Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan spent months working around the clock supporting strikes against key Isil targets in Iraq and Syria.
She was part of an American battle group. Using her state-of-the-art Samson radar she provided 24-hour air protection to US aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during its airstrikes against the terrorist group.
Speaking at HMS Duncan’s homecoming celebration in Portsmouth, commanding officer Commander Richard Atkinson said: ‘The work we’ve been doing has been hugely important.
‘We provided surface and air defence to USS Theodore Roosevelt while she conducted day and night strikes against Isil.
‘We spent about seven months in the Arabian Gulf in quite a high state of readiness, which needs people to be absolutely focused on the job at hand.
‘I’m incredibly proud of the ship’s company for the courage and stoicism.’
HMS Duncan returned to a heroes’ welcome as she docked at Portsmouth Naval Base this afternoon.
Hundreds of tearful families cheered and clapped as the destroyer pulled in.
Alicia Backhouse, 23, of North End in Portsmouth, was waiting for her boyfriend Samuel Gornall to return.
‘I wanted to cry tears of joy when I saw his ship for the first time,’ she said.
Becky McGaw, 40, of Fareham, was waiting for her husband Chief Petty Officer Sam ‘Scouse’ McGaw, with daughters Macy, 13, and Calli, 11.
She said: ‘I’m so proud of him. It’s been tough but we’re so happy he’s back.’
Calli added: ‘Mum surprised us that dad was coming home this morning. We couldn’t believe it.’
The deployment was Duncan’s maiden voyage.
Since leaving the UK in March, she has travelled 43,000 nautical miles, visiting 14 countries.
As well as helping in the fight against Isil, Duncan’s 240 sailors and marines have policed busy shipping lanes in seven seas and two oceans.
Duncan also fired 90,000 bullets during exercises with a number of other navies and coastguards.
Armed forces minister and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said it was ‘fantastic’ to see Duncan home in and praised the professionalism of the ship’s company.
Portsmouth’s HMS Defender is now helping in the war against Isil.