Double celebrations when HMS Exeter returned from the Gulf in 2000

Family members and friends at the dockside were greeted with smiles and cheers.
Family members and friends at the dockside were greeted with smiles and cheers.

They missed Christmas and the millennium celebrations at home but the crew of the destroyer HMS Exeter finally arrived back in Portsmouth. 

For some on board there was double reason to celebrate the return from the Gulf. 

Two sailors had become fathers in the six months since the ship sailed from the city - and two others proposed to their girlfriends. 

Leading Marine Engineer Mechanic Gavin Smith, 30, from Emsworth, was flown home for the birth of his daughter Evelyn in October 1999. But he had not seen her or his wife Rachael for five months.

‘It was really hard for me the first month back,' he said. 

Rachael, 27, and Evelyn were on the jetty to meet him. Rachael said: ‘This has been a long time coming. To see the ship comes in makes you feel so proud.’ 

LMEM Smith ran up to his family and hugged them. ‘I am as proud as anything,' he said, taking his daughter in his arms. 

HMS Exeter left Portsmouth for the Gulf in September 1999 and had sailed some 33,500 miles to take part in exercises and operations.