Families back at quayside for traditional homecoming as Navy minehunter returns

·2-min read

Naval families have lined the jetty at Portsmouth Naval Base for the first time in nearly two years to welcome home their loved ones after traditional homecomings were cancelled because of the pandemic.

The crew of minehunter HMS Brocklesby were cheered home as it arrived at the Hampshire port following the warship’s three-year deployment to the Gulf.

The homecoming is the first time in 22 months that families have been on the quayside to greet them.

A sailor from HMS Brocklesby is welcomed home by a loved one at Portsmouth Naval Base (Royal Navy/PA)
A sailor from HMS Brocklesby is welcomed home by a loved one at Portsmouth Naval Base (Royal Navy/PA)

Lieutenant Commander Dan Lee, commanding officer of the Hunt class mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV), said: “It is through the love and support of our families that we are able to maintain the routine of six-monthly operational deployments to the Gulf.

“So it’s heartening to see them back on the jetty to welcome us back, and after such a long time since any Royal Navy families were able to do this.”

On its journey back to the UK, HMS Brocklesby travelled via Gibraltar, Sardinia, Crete, Muscat, Djibouti and Oman.

It also stopped at the last known position of HMS Eagle in the western Mediterranean to enable the crew, which have spent 11 of the last 15 months deployed on operations, to pay their respects to the 131 who died when it was sunk in 1942.

Petty Officer Kev Aston said: “It’s a short deployment overall but it’s been a long four months, not being able to go ashore much because of Covid, and now looking forward to spending some time with my wife and kids.”

Gunnery officer Sub-Lieutenant Ben Hyde, said: “It’s fantastic to be back after just over four months away, and it’s nice for our families to be let back into the dockyard for this.”

Families eagerly awaited the return of HMS Brocklesby (Royal Navy/PA)
Families eagerly awaited the return of HMS Brocklesby (Royal Navy/PA)

Since leaving Portsmouth in 2018, Brocklesby has travelled 150,000 nautical miles and completed six crew changes while taking part in 18 operations and exercises.

It has also played a key role in the development of the latest autonomous systems which will likely replace the Royal Navy’s current generation of MCMVs.

Brocklesby will now spend time in maintenance while HMS Middleton, which left the base earlier in the year, takes over in the Gulf.

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