Families fought back tears as they bid an emotional farewell to their loved ones on board HMS Richmond.
The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate sailed yesterday for a seven-month deployment in the Atlantic.
Her ship’s company will be keeping up the Royal Navy’s presence in the region, protecting and reassuring British interests.
Despite a sudden burst of rain, dozens of relatives packed the Round Tower and the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth to wave goodbye to family members on board.
Among them was 36-year-old Zoann Medcalf, who was there with her two sons Oliver, six, and Alfie, two.
They were waving goodbye to husband and father, Petty Officer Paul Medcalf, 37.
‘It’s going to be interesting to do such a long stint, and miss birthdays and Christmas, but we’ll be looking forward to seeing him again,’ said Zoann.
‘It’s his first long deployment since we’ve had our kid, so it’s an important day for them to see daddy go out.
‘It is sad, though. I’m being brave and I haven’t cried yet. We said goodbye earlier.
‘We’ve been lucky and had a few weeks off where he’s been at home so we’ve been able to do quite a bit.
‘Obviously we’ll be keeping in touch and Oliver loves writing so he’ll be writing things to him.’
It has taken months of preparation for HMS Richmond to be ready for her deployment.
In February, the ship’s company put trainee submariners through their paces off the west coast of Norway, while taking part in the gruelling Submarine Command Course.
In March, navigation students from the Maritime Warfare School joined the ship for an intensive training programme.
Later that month, the frigate completed two successful test firings of her Sea Wolf surface-to-air-missile system off the south coast of England.
In April, she played a part in a massive exercise off the coast of Scotland, and in May the crew completed the intensive Flag Officer Sea Training.
The ship’s company have had a few weeks to rest since May, while the ship went through maintenance to get her ready for the deployment.
Jasmine White, 57, of Broad Street in Old Portsmouth, was watching the ship sail out of the harbour.
She said: ‘It is very sad seeing all of these people waving goodbye.
‘They must be very proud but it must be so difficult for them. I do think they are very brave.’