BRITAIN’S ability and commitment to defend the high seas remains ‘undiminished’ despite shifting political landscapes and global uncertainty.
So says the captain of one of the Royal Navy’s most advanced air defence destroyers, HMS Daring which today marked its triumphant return to Portsmouth after a nine-month mission.
Command Marcus Hember praised his crew for their sterling effort over the testing deployment to the Middle East.
And he told The News that despite on-going manpower woes impacting the nation’s armed forces, that the Senior Service was determined to remain a global force to be reckoned with.
Speaking moments after being reunited with his partner Hazel Woodland and son Hector, five, Cdr Hember said: ‘The message is really clear that for all the changes that are happening in the UK at the moment the UK’s commitment to our collective security, to Nato, and the security of those who want to pass freely on the high seas, remains undiminished and if anything it’s increasing.’
Family and friends cheered home their loved ones as the Type 45 destroyer sailed into Portsmouth’s Naval Base.
Daring with its 260-strong crew first left Portsmouth in September, tasked with protecting a US aircraft carrier task group bombing ISIS terrorists in Syria.
The warship deployed with a Royal Marines boarding team and a detachment from Yeovilton-based 825 Naval Air Squadron.
During her mission, the £1bn destroyer visited 12 countries, travelled 50,000 miles and undertook 20 patrols of the dangerous Ban-al-Mandeb strait.
Cdr Hember – who took charge of Daring midway through the deployment – added: ‘After nine demanding months at sea conducting operations to protect Britain’s economy, returning home is a wonderful and rewarding moment for all of Daring’s sailors and their families.
‘I am proud of everything they have achieved during this long deployment and hope they enjoy some well-earned time with their families and loved ones.
‘Everybody on board has contributed to the security and stability of one of the most important areas of the world for international trade, something for which they truly deserve recognition.’
Daring’s mission was struck by tragedy in the first few days of the deployment when Leading Engineering Technician Simon Allen died during a stop-over at Malta on September 13.
The 30-year-old from Wigan was hit by a car in the harbour town Msida.
And as Daring sailed back into Portsmouth, a space was left on the deck by the ship’s company as a tribute to LET Allen.
For many, the mission was full of new experiences. Able Seaman Jake Hobday, the ship’s youngest crew member aged 19, said: ‘The deployment has been long but I’ve learned loads and been to places in the world I never thought I would see.’
Proud dad Dave Waller, 47, of Waterlooville, was waiting to welcome home son Callum, 20, with his wife Linda, daughter Abbie and her little boy, Archie, three.
Dave said: ‘This was Callum’s first deployment and it’s been really hard for the family. But we’re unbelievably proud of him and amazed to have him home and safe.
‘He came back for two weeks over the New Year which was good but it was bitter sweet to see him go again.’
Natalie Moylan, who was meeting husband Leading Hand Johnathan Moylan, of Gosport, said: ‘It gets a bit emotional when he returns and it’s good to have him back until he messes up the place again.’
For Chief Petty Officer Robert Nelson, of Gosport, it was a chance to be reunited with wife Nicky and their three children, Jude, eight, Austin, five, and Katie, four.
He said: ‘This is my third time coming back to the kids and it gets harder and harder each and every time.’
Nicky, 31, added: ‘It’s lovely to have him home and to have a bit of peace and quiet with the kids, it’s quite hard when he’s away for a long time.’