Delighted families welcome home crew of HMS Argyll
After seven months at sea busting drug smugglers, reassuring the Falkland islanders and carrying out maritime policing duties, HMS Argyll has returned home.
The crew of the Devonport warship were reunited with their loved ones on the quayside at Devonport Naval Base yesterday morning.
An 11-gun salute was exchanged with 29 Commando Royal Artillery and the ship's Lynx helicopter carried out a flypast.
The ship's company last saw Plymouth in February, when the Type 23 frigate set sail to conduct operations around Africa, the Falklands, the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean. As the ship was guided into dock, the Royal Marines Band played, followed by music from the Plymouth Pipe Band.
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Clad in "welcome home" T-shirts, the family of AB Kevin "Tab" Hunter were among the 500 friends and families on the jetty.
His sister, Jane Hart, from Roborough said: "I'm used to it [deployments] as my husband is in the Navy, too, but my daughter Maisie has missed her uncle; he kept in touch a lot. It's nice to have him home again."
AB John Bailey was met by his wife Leah and one-year-old daughter Lily-Jane.
Leah, from Plympton, said: "It's been hard, it's his first big deployment so it's been very hard on us, especially having the little one as she isn't old enough to understand.
"It's amazing to have him back. It's nice to be a family again we are looking forward to some family time now."
Key to boosting morale on board and keeping up official and personal fitness levels was leading Physical Trainer Barry Chambers, who was met by his fiancée, admin assistant Leanne Jackson, and their son Alfie, four.
Barry, of the Stoke area of Plymouth, said: "The deployment was really good. Personally speaking, highlights were Bermuda and Key West. It's good to be back though."
HMS Argyll will now spend the next few months in maintenance before redeploying next year.
The ship's commanding officer, Commander Tim Neild, of Portsmouth, was nearly knocked over by his children Lucy, six, and Josh, four, as they ran to hug him.
Cdr Neild, who leaves the ship in two weeks to study for an MBA before taking up a job at the Ministry of Defence in London, said: "We have conducted a vast range of tasking across half the globe. The capacity we built in Africa, the re-assurance and training in the South Atlantic and the $116 million worth of drugs we helped stop in Central America all show the value for money that a most capable warship, such as HMS Argyll, provides."
The Type 23 frigate has travelled 35,000 nautical miles during her deployment visiting 16 countries across eight time zones.