Royal Navy: 22 marvellous pictures of HMS Prince of Wales returning to Portsmouth as crowds greet her

HMS Prince of Wales has made a triumphant return to Portsmouth after the largest Nato exercise in 40 years.

The British warship was at the centre of the maritime mission involving more than 20,000 UK military personnel across Scandinavia and northern Europe. She sailed past The Round Tower in Old Portsmouth just after 12.30pm this afternoon. The aircraft carrier set sail on February 12 to lead a UK Carrier Strike Group, which operated as a naval force of allied warships and submarines in the North Atlantic, Norwegian Sea and the Baltic Sea.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: "HMS Prince of Wales is returning to her home port of Portsmouth after successfully leading the UK's involvement in Exercise Steadfast Defender, the largest Nato military exercise since the end of the Cold War." Crowds gathered to welcome family members aboard ship home. Some visitors had travelled from Wales, Peterborough, Devon and elsewhere.

Cheers erupted from the spectators as the 65,000 tonne vessel travelled past them. Sailors had to prepare for the mission at the last minute, with HMS Queen Elizabeth, the fleet flagship, expected to lead the exercise. Her deployment was called off after final checks found an issue with the starboard propeller coupling, the Navy said. She is now in Rosyth, where she was built, for repairs.

Here are 22 pictures from HMS Prince of Wales’ return home.