BOUNDING down the gangway at top speed, homecoming sailor George Halsall wasted no time finding his girlfriend among the waiting crowd of families.
For the last six months on board HMS Diamond, the 23-year-old Leading Air Engineering Technician had been planning to propose to Emma Davies on the day of his return to Portsmouth.
And today he sprinted off the ship to get down on one knee and pop the question – and Emma said yes.
LAET Halsall told The News: ‘I had been planning it since I left six months ago and since then I have been counting down the days.
‘It’s been an emotional time away and I couldn’t wait to come home.
‘From the moment I left her side I have always been planning a way to get back to her again.’
The heartwarming scenes came as HMS Diamond returned home to Portsmouth after her six-month maiden deployment to the Middle East.
Newly-engaged Emma, 21, from Weymouth, said: ‘It was overwhelming and I didn’t expect it at all.
‘I think that beats all the proposals in the world.
‘It was the best Christmas present ever.’
It was equally a surprise for LAET’s mum, Karen Halsall, who watched the proposal unfold with tears in her eyes.
Karen, 43, said: ‘I am over the moon with happiness for them.
‘They are both doing so well in their lives and this is perfect for them.
‘I had no idea he was going to do it. It was lovely.’
Onlookers waved flags as they lined the dockside at the naval base to wait for their loved ones to return home just in time for the holidays.
HMS Diamond has sailed more than 31,000 miles on security and counter-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf since leaving Portsmouth in June.
The Type 45 destroyer visited several countries including Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Gibraltar, Crete, Athens and Barcelona.
Cecily Headley, 37, was waiting dockside with children Peter, five, Olly, three, and mother-in-law Diane Headley, 63.
They were waiting for Lieutenant Mark Headley, the ship’s air warfare officer.
Cecily, of Gomer Lane in Gosport, said: ‘We were very excited waiting to see him again.
‘It has been a long time but you just have to get on with it.
‘I joined the Portsmouth Military Wives Choir and that support network has been wonderful.
‘We’re all relieved he’s coming home and we’re really looking forward to this Christmas.’
HMS Diamond spent five months as part of the Combined Task Force, a 27-nation partnership.