There were cheers and tears of excitement as HMS Dragon returned home to Portsmouth.
The Type 45 destroyer sailed into the city today with families lining the jetty to welcome their loved ones back.
The warship has spent three months on exercise Westlant 19 off the east coast of the United States, alongside aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, frigate HMS Northumberland and tanker RFA Tideforce.
Her return was an emotional one for everyone gathered in the chilly sunshine of Portsmouth Naval Base.
Brittany Macdonald, from Basingstoke, was waiting to welcome home her wife Leading Hand Chloe Macdonald.
The pair got married in August and Brittany is looking forward to spending time together as newlyweds.
The 31-year-old said: “This is my first homecoming and it’s been really exciting. It has been hard with Chloe being away, especially so soon after the wedding – I have been counting down the days until her return.
“I am so proud of what she and the ship have been doing.”
HMS Dragon sailed from Portsmouth in August to Halifax in Nova Scotia.
She worked with US allies as part of the USS Eisenhower carrier strike group before joining the UK Carrier Strike Group in Florida where UK F-35 Lightning jets embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.
The destroyer’s air defence capability was integral to the success of the operation, shielding the group from aircraft, missiles and drones.
Pregnant Fiona Brown, from Staffordshire, was eager to be reunited with fiancé Petty Officer Liam Narey
“I was 13 weeks pregnant when he left so he won’t be used to seeing me with a bump,” said 28-year-old Fiona.
“It is really exciting to welcome him home and it will be so nice to have him back.
“There were a few weeks between Charleston and New York that I didn’t hear from him but I have been following what the ship’s been doing and where she’s been. I am so proud of him.”
HMS Dragon’s Commanding Officer Commander Giles Palin spoke highly of what his ship’s company achieved while in the States.
He said: “It is with immense pride that we return to Portsmouth today having made history on our Westlant 19 deployment.
“Not only did we demonstrate the operational readiness of our carrier strike capability – with the magnificent HMS Queen Elizabeth as its heart – but in doing so became the first Type 45 destroyer to act as the air and missile defence commander, clearing the skies out to hundreds of miles for a UK Carrier Strike Group with F-35 Lightning jets in the force.”
He added: “None of this would be achievable without the support and dedication of our families in the UK.
“Today is about them and their reunion with the sailors who have been missed so dearly while deployed. All Dragons can return to their families today with their heads held high given all they achieved on Westlant.”
Yesterday, 212 Flight returned to Royal Naval Air Squadron Yeovilton. Their Wildcat has been embarked on HMS Dragon carrying out operations as part of the wider work of the carrier strike group.
Narrative and photos from RoyalNavy.mod.uk