A SAILOR who had been out at sea for almost a year got down on bended knee and proposed to his girlfriend as soon as he set foot on dry land.
Naval Airman (Aircraft Handler) Ben Baker rushed off HMS Richmond when she arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base to pop the question to 20-year-old Megan Van Baaren – who accepted.
‘I was so nervous about it but it felt amazing when she said “yes”. It was such a huge relief,’ said 22-year-old Ben.
Megan, 20, said she was overwhelmed by the gesture, adding: ‘It’s something we’re both going to remember forever.’
Emotions ran high as hundreds of friends and family lined the dockyard to welcome loved ones home.
But the happy atmosphere was marred by sadness as the ship’s company paid tribute to Engineering Technician Marine Engineer Charles Warrender who died while on shore leave in the Seychelles.
A gap was left as a mark of respect as sailors lined up on the Type 23 frigate’s deck as the ship pulled alongside.
Petty Officer Marc Seymour, 32, of Portsmouth, said the tragedy had rocked the ship.
‘Losing him was hard – it affected everyone deeply. But in many senses everyone was together so we could grieve together,’ he said.
PO Seymour was welcomed ashore by his wife, Donna, 29, and their children Jack, three, and Jessica, eight.
He added: ‘It’s great to be back home in time for Christmas.’
During the nine-month deployment, HMS Richmond clocked up more than 40,000 miles as it carried out security patrols of the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.
The ship was involved in two drugs busts, including the capture of £26.5m of heroin and £3m worth of cannabis.
Richmond joined the operation to tackle people smuggling, with the ship’s company rescuing hundreds of people.
Commanding officer Commander Mark Anderson, said: ‘I am incredibly proud of my ship’s company. They’ve worked extremely hard to stop traffickers, disrupt illegal narcotic smuggling and save the lives of hundreds of people.’
Mary-Anne Graham, 39, of Gosport, was thrilled to have her husband, Petty Officer Sean Graham back with her.
‘I am so, so proud of the job they’ve all been doing,’ she added.