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Families reunited for Christmas as HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth

Captain Richard Hewitt, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, reunites with his family after 3 months at sea
Captain Richard Hewitt, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, reunites with his family after 3 months at sea

Friends and family members reunited with their loved ones as the HMS Prince of Wales arrived in Portsmouth after three months at sea.

The UK’s largest warship had been based on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where Navy personnel had carried out flight trials with the US Marine Corps and F-35B stealth fighter jets.

Able Seaman Yasmine Mante is greeted by family
Able Seaman Yasmine Mante is greeted by family - Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The warship’s crew performed Procedure Alpha, the ceremonial procedure for entering harbour, and waved to the crowd of around 2,600 people as they returned to Portsmouth Naval Base on Monday.

Petty Officer Nicholas Baker holds his daughter Amelia-Rose
Petty Officer Nicholas Baker holds his daughter Amelia-Rose - Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Petty Officer Nicholas Baker was met by his fiancée Rebecca Randle and their daughter Amelia-Rose, who turns two next week.

Officer Baker said: “It feels amazing seeing the family and perfect timing with Amelia-Rose’s birthday and Christmas coming up.”

Ms Randle said: “It’s great to have him home, my cheeks are already hurting because I’ve been smiling so much.”

Able Seaman Lucy Phillips, 21, and Able Seaman Luke Gorst, 22, said they were planning celebrations after becoming engaged in Jacksonville, Florida, during the deployment.

They were met ashore by their families including AB Gorst’s nine-week-old foster sister Heidi.

AB Lucy Phillips and her fiance AB Luke Gorst meet new family member, Heidi
Able Seaman Lucy Phillips and her fiancée Able Seaman Luke Gorst meet new family member, Heidi - Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

AB Gorst said: “Popping the question was one of the scariest things. I only told a select few on board before but the ring was burning a hole in my pocket and I wanted to do it, I just had to find the perfect moment.”

AB Phillips said: “The girls organised a do on board and everyone congratulated me, the planning starts now.

“It’s amazing to be back, it’s been a long time coming.”

Naval personnel perform Procedure Alpha as they arrive in Portsmouth
Naval personnel perform Procedure Alpha as they arrive in Portsmouth - Leon Neal/Getty Images

The ship had carried out trials with small pilotless drones which could take the place of helicopters delivering supplies to a task group, and with larger crewless aircraft used for long-range surveillance or strike missions.

Captain Richard Hewitt, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, said: “It’s great to be back after a hugely successful deployment.

“During the past three and a half months we have pushed the boundaries of naval aviation, worked hand in hand with our US partners and ensured the continued advancement of Queen Elizabeth class aviation.

“I am immensely proud of all on board who have been nothing short of brilliant. My particular thanks go to all those who have supported us from home.”

Leading Hand Fraser Gray is greeted by his partner Laura Krusinskyte
Leading Hand Fraser Gray is greeted by his partner Laura Krusinskyte - Leon Neal/Getty Images

HMS Prince of Wales will now undergo maintenance before carrying out further training exercises before its first carrier strike group deployment in 2025.

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