Hundreds of Portsmouth families celebrated the news the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible and her escort HMS Newcastle were coming home from the Balkans.
At a press briefing, defence secretary George Robertson said the 20,000-ton carrier and her escort destroyer would be leaving the Ionian Sea to head home after NATO agreed her presence was no longer needed.
The vessels could arrive in Portsmouth within a week, although a date was yet to be set.
In Gosport, Elaine Greer was ecstatic about the news. Her fiancé, Leading Hand Mick Taylor, was serving in the carrier with Sea Harrier 800 Naval Air Squadron.
Miss Greer, 29, who was due to marry in August, said: ‘I’m just so happy. It has been difficult with the pressure and strain of not knowing if they are coming home or not.
‘At last he is coming back – it’s a huge weight off my shoulders.
‘I should think a huge cheer went up on board when they heard.’
On arriving in the Balkans, Invincible began flying her seven Sea Harrier fighters in support of NATO bombing missions.