Frigate sets off on mission to combat the Somali pirates

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Families huddled in freezing temperatures on the Round Tower to wave off HMS Richmond yesterday.

The Type 23 frigate left Portsmouth for warmer climes on a seven-month counter-piracy mission around the Horn of Africa and the Far East.

The ship was the first navy vessel to set off on deployment this year and around 100 relatives and friends bade farewell to their loved ones with a tear in their eye.

Louise Scott, 21, of Gosport, waved off her partner Marc Ryan, who is leaving his 11-month-old daughter Olivia-Mai for the first time.

She said: 'Last time he went I was pregnant so this is the first time he'll be away from her. It was very hard for him saying goodbye to her this morning.'

Louise, along with Marc's mother Elayne and his tearful sister Donna held up a banner wishing the Leading Hand 'Good Luck'.

'I made the banner when he went off on his first deployment when he was 16 and we bring it every time now,' said Donna.

Also braving the icy winds on the Round Tower was Melissa Bedwell, 20, who will be busy planning her wedding to long-term boyfriend Lee Sumner while he is away warding off Somali pirates.

She said: 'It's quite tough when he goes away - I've got to plan a wedding all by myself so it's going to be hard.'

HMS Richmond will form part of the Royal Navy's contribution to the international efforts to deter pirates around the Horn of Africa and counter the threat to international shipping lanes.

She will also help to secure the delivery of aid to Somalia under the World Food Programme and deploy to the Far East with diplomatic visits to ports in Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore.

During the past few months the ship's company has been put through its paces to ensure they are ready for their mission where they will be working with a number of other navies.

Weapons engineer officer lieutenant commander Daniel D'Silva said: 'It will certainly be an interesting deployment.

'There is a large coalition of other navies engaged in this work who we are looking forward to working with.'