HMS Defender returned to HM Naval Base Portsmouth this morning after a “hugely successful 222 days away from home”, say the Royal Navy.
According to a Royal Navy news release, her crew of 270 and embarked helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron safely accompanied 38 British-flagged tankers and cargo ships through troubled waters and made two significant drug seizures.
Instead of a six-month patrol of the Far East as originally planned, the destroyer was diverted to the Middle East last summer to join other Royal Navy vessels accompanying British merchant shipping into and out of the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz.
“There would normally be hundreds of family and friends on the return jetty waiting for the sailors to disembark, but to help preserve good health the homecoming was cancelled. However, for the final leg of the destroyer’s journey home, 39 relatives were able to join as planned in Gibraltar, to experience of life aboard with loved ones. Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd, embarked at Spithead early on Friday to meet the crew and thank for them for their service since departing on 12 August before they made the final transit into harbour from their overnight anchor in the Solent.”
HMS Defender’s Commanding Officer, Commander Richard Hewitt, was quoted as saying:
“While disappointing not to see our families on the jetty as we return to Portsmouth, we understand the situation and we are extremely grateful for all the support our families have provided while we have been deployed. We could not do it without them and are looking forward to spending some quality time with them now we have returned.”
She sailed the narrow waters at the gateway to the Gulf 28 times, accompanying 1.6m tonnes of cargo on those 38 ships – cargo vital to UK trade and economy say the Royal Navy.