Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester joined Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester as she sailed back into Portsmouth last week from her seven-month deployment to the South Atlantic.
The sun shone for the Portsmouth-based warship as she returned to cheering crowds of families, friends and well-wishers at 1000hrs on Friday 25 March 2011.
As the ship’s sponsor, the Duchess of Gloucester launched the ship on 2 November 1982 and has been closely involved ever since - seeing her through 15 captains, two rededications and 25 years of commissioned service.
The Duchess joined the destroyer by helicopter before meeting the ship’s company and her Commanding Officer, Commander David George.
She also presented Commander George with the 2010 Fleet Efficiency Award from the Royal Navy for being its most effective destroyer last year, attaining the highest standards in both training and on operations.
This will be HMS Gloucester’s final homecoming as she will be decommissioned from the fleet in June 2011.
‘The Fighting G’ - as HMS Gloucester is affectionately known - left Portsmouth Naval Base on 20 August 2010 and almost immediately sailed to the west coast of Africa to assist the Cape Verde authorities with a multi-million-pound drugs bust. The warship intercepted a yacht which was found to be carrying £4m worth of cocaine.
Since then Gloucester’s activities have ranged from conducting photographic conservation surveys for the British Antarctic Survey in South Georgia to representing the UK at the Expo Naval Trade Fair in Valparaiso, Chile - an exhibition of defence technology.
The majority of her time was spent patrolling the Falkland Islands where she exercised with the Army and the RAF’s Falklands-based Typhoon fighter aircraft to hone her skills at working in a tri-Service environment.
Another priority for HMS Gloucester was policing and protecting the waters around the various South Atlantic islands to deliver security and reassurance to those people living there.
The islands are 250 miles (400km) away from mainland South America at their nearest point and so are dependent on their surrounding seas for their livelihood. The deployment finished in style with a swift visit to New York, with the ship’s company able to see the famous sights in their best Number One uniforms and finding themselves the toast of the city.
Prior to the ship’s return, Commander George said:
Her Royal Highness and our families will see coming in on Friday HMS Gloucester returning in fine fettle after a hugely successful deployment down south. It has been a long time away from home, however.
Working hard has kept us occupied, and there have been lots of highlights, but we are now just looking forward to seeing our loved ones again. Their support has been immense throughout the deployment.
I am very proud that the Duchess will be able to join us, as it conveys to both the sailors and the families how valued they and their Service are.