HMS York welcomed home to Portsmouth

British military dog Mali who has received the PDSA Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross with his current handler Corporal Daniel Hatley

NATIONAL: Mali the dog gets top military honour

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WITH a 15-gun salute, HMS York made a dramatic return home to Portsmouth this morning.

The destroyer fired 15 rounds which were returned by Fort Blockhouse in Gosport as she sailed into port.

BACK ''HMS York.     'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (112442-1)

BACK ''HMS York. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (112442-1)

York left on February 11 to patrol the Falkland Islands but she was soon diverted to the Mediterranean as war erupted in Libya.

The warship picked up 1.5 tonnes of medical aid from Malta and took it into the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi as civil war raged.

The ship evacuated 43 people out of Benghazi, many of them women with young children and oil field workers who had travelled more than 250 miles in the hope of rescue.

York sped out of the Libyan territorial waters later that day and took the refugees back to Malta where they could start their long journeys home.

READY A sailor stands guard on HMS York in the Solent this morning ahead of her return to Portsmouth

READY A sailor stands guard on HMS York in the Solent this morning ahead of her return to Portsmouth

She then continued on her original tasking on patrol in the South Atlantic before visits to Peru and Jamaica.

The ship is due to returned shortly before 10am, sailing into the base firing a 15-gun salute to the Second Sea Lord, her Lynx helicopter operating a fly-past and the port tugs pulling her in fired their water jets to announce her arrival.

The theatrics were requested by York’s captain, Commander Simon Staley, who will leave the ship in August.

He said: ‘This has been a really terrific deployment for HMS York. Over the last five months we have been called on to conduct an incredibly diverse range of tasks.

‘There has never been a quiet or dull moment. HMS York has just sailed 26,858 miles, which is further than once around the equator, and delivered a really impressive tally of positive effects across a huge swathe of the world.

‘I have asked much of my ship’s company and they have risen to the challenge without fail - not just through the excellent but hugely testing training we received prior to deploying, but also in keeping this fine old lady, now 27 years in commission, sustained and in peak performance ready for any task at any time. They have proven to be the most professional and very best ambassadors for the Royal Navy and this country that I have ever served with.

‘We are of course delighted to be home, back to our families and friends who have been nothing short of brilliant in their unstinting love and support for us whilst away.’