FAMILIES united to bid their loved ones farewell as a city-based warship embarked on deployment.
Minehunter HMS Cattistock left Portsmouth yesterday to join the Standing Nato Mine Countermeasures Group 1.
The ship and its 45-man company will spend the next three months taking part in intense training sessions and drills alongside Nato allies.
As the ship left the city to join the group in Belgium, families watched on from the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth in an emotional show of support.
Among those braving the chilly conditions were Vivien and David Wheen, from Wiltshire, whose son Charlie is HMS Cattistock’s commanding officer.
Mrs Wheen, 72, said: ‘As a military family, we are used to saying hello and goodbye.
‘But we are extremely proud of Charlie and we know his job is made much easier because he has a very good crew.’
Also there to bid a fond farewell was 26-year-old Mica Jenkins, who waved goodbye to boyfriend Jay Buckley, the ship’s bosun.
She said: ‘We’ve been together for four years and in that time I’ve seen him off before, for eight months at a time.
‘It’s something you get used to, not necessarily something you like to do as it can be upsetting.
‘But I am immensely proud of him.’
In a message of encouragement from families to the ship’s company, she added: ‘Everbody is rooting for you and we are all so proud – we’re looking forward to you coming back already.’
HMS Cattistock’s company has been swiftly prepared for this deployment, having returned from operations in the Middle East just six months ago.
Commanding officer Lt Cdr Charlie Wheen said: ‘The ship’s company have worked incredibly hard to ready themselves for operations.
‘This deployment represents an exciting change of focus and we are all pretty excited.’
Petty Officer Buckley said the team would strive for excellence on deployment.
He explained: ‘During any exercises thrown at us, we will make sure we beat the other nations and keep the Royal Navy at the front of the pack.’