THERE were tearful goodbyes as scores of proud families turned out to see their loved ones depart from Portsmouth onboard HMS Atherstone.
People waved flags and shouted goodbye to the crew on the warship, which has begun a three-year deployment to the Gulf, as it sailed past the Round Tower in Broad Street, Old Portsmouth.
Proud dad Kevin Beale, 50, of Dorchester, turned up at the tower yesterday morning to see off his son, Able Seaman Warfare Specialist Joshua Beale, 23.
Mr Beale was joined by Joshua’s brother Mark, 25, sister Verity, 18, and fiancee Jessica Brooks, 25.
‘It’s quite an emotional day for all of us,’ Mr Beale said.
‘We got the chance to go on board the ship earlier in the day.
There were lots of hugs and tears.
‘He seemed excited but anxious at the same time about leaving.
‘I’m extremely proud of him.’
Jessica said: ‘I’m going to miss Joshua so much. We only got engaged last week. His proposal was very romantic, there were candles and champagne and he got on one knee too.’
The occasion marked the fourth time that Jane Chambers, of Hilsea, said goodbye to her husband, Chief Petty Officer Weapons Engineer Gary, 35.
‘I’m used to it all by now,’ Mrs Chambers said.
‘My dad Ricky Wise, who was a Navy Warrant Officer, often went away when I was young so I know the drill.
‘You just have to get on with things and I have our children Jessica, four, and Ethan, one, to look after.
‘We’re really looking forward to him coming back.’
HMS Atherstone will take over from another warship that has come to the end of a three-year stint in the Middle East.
Though the ship will be based in the region for three years, the 45-man crew will rotate every six months - which means the existing crew will be back with their loved ones by Christmas.
The family of Able Seaman Diver Daniel Mullens, 20, of Port Talbot, Wales, said they would throw a big party when he returns.
Daniel’s dad Carl Mullens, 46, said: ‘Though it’s been emotional for all of us Daniel had been feeling pretty laid back and calm about going. He’s been interested in the forces ever since he was a toddler.’