Westminster home after taking part in Libya mission

HMS Westminster arrives back in Portsmouth on Friday

HMS Westminster arrives back in Portsmouth on Friday

Hundreds of families were elated after the announcement HMS Invincible could arrive in Portsmouth within a week

THIS WEEK IN 1999: Joy as carrier ordered to return back to base

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HMS Westminster returned to Portsmouth after completing her mission in Libya.

The Type 23 frigate sailed into Portsmouth Harbour early yesterday morning to a warm welcome from friends and relatives waving to the warship from the Round Tower.

Lt Cdr Nick Wood greets his son Lachlan

Lt Cdr Nick Wood greets his son Lachlan

Westminster was on ceremonial duties in London last month when she got the urgent call to go to Libya and sailors hardly had a chance to say goodbye to loved ones.

She spent four weeks at high alert off the coast of the rebel-held city of Benghazi and was in the thick of the action as the United Nations mulled over plans to establish a no-fly zone over the country.

The ship’s captain, Commander Tim Green, said: ‘We could see Gaddafi’s planes and ships bombing his own people. There were a couple of occasions when Gaddafi’s aircraft were flying in close to the ship and we were ready to act in self defence.

‘But after the United Nations resolution came in, those planes and ships didn’t move from their ports because of units like Westminster.

‘They knew they were marked men and had they come out in contravention of the resolution we would have destroyed them.’

There was no pomp or ceremony for Westminster’s return to Portsmouth Naval Base and the only family at the quayside was that of executive officer Lieutenant Commander Nick Wood, who rushed in to the arms of his three children and partner, Amanda. He said: ‘It’s absolutely fantastic to be back.

‘It was an unexpected deployment – one minute we were buttoned-up nice and safe in London, seven days later we were off the coast of Libya. But that’s what the navy does well.

‘I’m looking forward to a weekend off with the family and then it’s back to work on Monday.’

Lieutenant Commander Steve Prest, 35, was looking forward to getting back home to his wife and their two-year-old daughter in Alverstoke, Gosport.

He said: ‘I’m very much glad to be home. My daughter is very young and they grow up very fast at that age.’

Weapons engineer Paul Smith, 19, said: ‘It’s good to be home but I wouldn’t have minded staying a bit longer.

‘Things like this don’t come around often and it’s an honour to get a chance to play your part in history.’

Westminster was replaced by destroyer HMS Liverpool, which is enforcing Nato’s arms blockade in Libya.

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