EMOTIONS were clear to see as sailors were reunited with their loved ones after six months at sea.
About 800 people packed into Portsmouth Naval Base to welcome home the ship’s company of HMS Duncan.
Children, clutching banners and signs, cheered as the Type 45 destroyer came alongside, with its crew beaming and waving from the deck.
Duncan and her 200-strong ship’s company had spent the best part of half a year as the flagship of Nato’s Standing Maritime Group 2 operating in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea.
As well as providing security and reassurance in the region, the eventful tour also saw the £1bn warship act as an air defence shield in support of Nato-led air strikes in Syria and rescue two stranded Algerian sailors.
But talk of Duncan’s deployment activity was the last thing on the mind of many of the eager families waiting in the dockyard.
For Michelle Ellison, of Lee-on-the-Solent, it was finally a chance to be reunited with her husband, LET Kieran Ellison. She said: ‘This has been an emotional roller coaster. Having him back means everything.
‘We have four children and he means the world to them.’
LET Ellison ran off the ship to hug his wife, accompanied by daughter Lacey, 12, who was among the lucky few children allowed to join the ship in Plymouth the day before.
He said: ‘As soon as I had the chance I ran down that gangway. It’s great to be together again.’
Carol Stevens, 49, was waiting for her husband and 34-year navy veteran Chief Petty Officer Tony Stevens, Duncan’s chief stoker. She said: ‘We’ve been together for 30 years and it never gets easier but hopefully this will be his last deployment.’
Lieutenant Commander Ellen Laird, Duncan’s head of logistics, said going to action stations during the Syrian air raids was her highlight. The 34-year-old said: ‘As you stood around and looked at the sailors to the left and right of you, you knew whatever happened you were ready for it.’
Commander Eleanor Stack, Duncan’s captain, said the deployment had been a ‘landmark’ one and that the crew had ‘risen to every challenge’. She added: ‘I’m immensely proud of everyone of them.’
Duncan will deploy in 2019.