FAMILIES, naval enthusiasts and more joined crowds on Southsea’s seafront this morning to welcome the HMS Queen Elizabeth back to Portsmouth.
The £3.1bn carrier joined its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, in Portsmouth Naval Base after the Westlant 19 operation in America.
There, the carrier’s F-35B lightning stealth jets were put through their paces, along with the rest of the crew.
While families waited at the jetty for their loved ones, others took to the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth to welcome the sailors back to dry land.
Stephen Coverdale, 46, drove down from Newcastle with children Sacha, 16 and Mason, 12.
He said: 'My nephew Jay Campbell is on board, he’s a weapons technician. He’s got family waiting on the jetty but we wanted to come and see him as well.
‘It’s brilliant – it makes you feel very proud to know someone on board.’
Lynne Jones, 73 from Raglan, Wales, waved to her grandson, James Phillips, alongside Annette Pumble, 47.
‘I had a tear in my eye as they came in,’ said Annette.
‘It’s really emotional – I haven’t seen the carrier come in before but it’s absolutely amazing.’
Lynne added: ‘Ever since he was five years old he wanted to join the navy.
‘It’s been a long three months without him home and we can’t wait to have him back for the Christmas season – we’re all very proud of him.’
But it wasn’t just naval families who were welcoming back their loved ones.
Caroline Would and children George and Henry were waiting for Wing Commander Colin Would, from the RAF.
He’s been working with the F-35s during Westlant 19.
Caroline said: ‘He’s only been a way for a couple of weeks but there’s a huge feeling of pride watching him come in.
‘We’re meeting him for lunch before all heading back to East Sussex.’
Henry, 12, says seeing the two carriers together made him realist that the Royal Navy is a force to be reckoned with.
'Seeing the carriers together made me feel safer, knowing that we have such a strong navy', he said.
'It’s a really impressive sight.’