Royal Navy: Families ecstatic to see loved ones deployed on HMS Prince of Wales returning home to Portsmouth

Drizzly conditions did not dampen the spirits of those waiting for HMS Prince of Wales to come home.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The huge aircraft carrier sailed past The Round Tower just after 12.30pm, with dozens of well-wishers and family members of sailors ready to welcome their loved ones back. HMS Prince of Wales was leading the UK Carrier Strike Group - an operational formation destroyers, frigates and a carrier air wing - on Nato's Exercise Steadfast Defender.

She joined more than 30 vessels from allied nations in what was the largest Nato operation since The Cold War. After replacing HMS Queen Elizabeth at the last minute, sailors had to prepare for exercises off the coast of Norway alongside submarines, F-35 fighter jets and vessels from other countries. In their downtime, sailors got chance to explore cities including Rotterdam in The Netherlands. Breath-taking photos were taken of the aircraft carrier in formation alongside several allied ships.

HMS Prince of Wales returns to HMNB Portsmouth after being involved with Nato's Exercise Steadfast Defender. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-10)HMS Prince of Wales returns to HMNB Portsmouth after being involved with Nato's Exercise Steadfast Defender. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-10)
HMS Prince of Wales returns to HMNB Portsmouth after being involved with Nato's Exercise Steadfast Defender. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-10)
Ken Crosby, Theo, six months, Alex and Brooke at the top of The Round Tower in Old Portsmouth. Picture: Chris  Moorhouse (260324-06)Ken Crosby, Theo, six months, Alex and Brooke at the top of The Round Tower in Old Portsmouth. Picture: Chris  Moorhouse (260324-06)
Ken Crosby, Theo, six months, Alex and Brooke at the top of The Round Tower in Old Portsmouth. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-06)
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For many personnel, it would have been their first deployment. Ken Crosby was waiting to see his son Tom, 24. The father, of Gosport, was a former Leading Radio Operator and served in the force for 11 years. He told The News: "Tom has really enjoyed it. He’s had a really good experience, worked hard to get some training done, and had a good trip to Rotterdam. Without a doubt, he has really adapted to this. He’s following in my footsteps and has taken some advice on how to approach it. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but this has made a man of him. He’s come out of his shell."

Tom's brother Alex added: "I can’t wait to see him. He’s been away for a couple of months. He’s embraced the role. We’re going for drinks to celebrate." Spectators gathered at The Round Tower and lined up along the Hotwalls to catch a glimpse of the enormous aircraft carrier. Cheers rang through the air as the vessel sailed passed them, with people delightfully waving Union Jacks.

From left, Jess Lilly, Maddie Hancock, 16, and Clare Hancock at the top of  the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-02)From left, Jess Lilly, Maddie Hancock, 16, and Clare Hancock at the top of  the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-02)
From left, Jess Lilly, Maddie Hancock, 16, and Clare Hancock at the top of the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-02)
The Smythe family from Lincolnshire at the top of the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth, waiting for HMS Prince of Wales to come home. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-03)The Smythe family from Lincolnshire at the top of the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth, waiting for HMS Prince of Wales to come home. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-03)
The Smythe family from Lincolnshire at the top of the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth, waiting for HMS Prince of Wales to come home. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (260324-03)

Clare Hancock was anticipating her reunion with her son George alongside her daughter Maddie,16, and Jess Lilly, 18. Clare said: "We’re all really excited. I can’t wait to see him. We’ve missed him very much. He was supposed to be joining us on holiday in Thailand and Malaysia. We landed yesterday and headed straight here to see him. He was meant to be with us but the deployment was last minute." Maddie added: "The Navy has developed him so much as a person. We've heard he's had an amazing time."

The Smythe family had travelled all the way from Lincolnshire to welcome Joseph back to the UK. Mum Larna said: "This was his first deployment so we’re so excited for him. He decided to go into the military a while back. We’ll be going out for a meal tonight and he’ll be chilling with us soon. It was a fantastic experience for him. The things he’s seen and done are wonderful." Millie Crosby added: "He’s loved every second of it. He’s learnt some very valuable things, and there has been a lot of work that he’s been doing, but he’s really enjoyed it.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Some had travelled from closer to home to see loved ones. Tina Pitt, of Gosport, was waiting for her brother George alongside three-year-old Lincoln. She said: "I’ve missed him loads. He’s been doing a lot of training, and had a really good time in Rotterdam. He’s wanted to be in the Navy since he was a little."

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.