FAMILIES cried tears of joy after HMS Defender arrived back in Portsmouth after a nine-month deployment.
The Portsmouth-based destroyer returned home this morning from the Middle East where she primarily worked with American and French Carrier strike groups as part of on-going operations against the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Hundreds of family members waved their flags and ‘welcome home’ signs to their loved ones as the ship ended her 263-day run at sea.
Defender visited 19 ports in 11 countries during her time away, including Sri Lanka, India and Abu Dhabi. She has travelled a total distance of 47,538 nautical miles, the equivalent of going more than twice around the world.
As the crew departed the ship, the dockyard at the Naval Base turned into a hive of emotion as the sailors greeted their loved ones.
Nancy Trevethan, 30, from Lee-on-the-Solent was weeping tears of joy as she welcomed home her husband, Sean, 37, who served as weapons engineer officer on board Defender.
The father-of-three had left the city in October when his daughter Madeleine was just three weeks old. Mrs Trevethan said: ‘It is amazing to have him back. It just doesn’t feel real and it is just so wonderful.’ Her husband added: ‘You couldn’t imagine the atmosphere on board today as we all knew we were going to see our families. It feels just perfect to be home.’
Commanding Officer Steve Highman said: ‘As Captain, I could not be prouder of the men and women who have worked alongside me over the last 18 months and particularly over the course of this deployment.
‘Every sailer, royal marine, airman and soldier who has served on the Defender has been bold, confident and extraordinary, confident that what we have done here has made a difference and that we have directly contributed to the national security of the United Kingdom.’