Families back on quayside for traditional homecoming as HMS Brocklesby returns

Since March last year, COVID-19 restrictions have prevented the usual welcomes for families separated for months at a time.

HMS Brocklesby has been welcomed home by families on the quayside at Portsmouth naval base for the first time in nearly two years.

About 100 family members and friends were in No.2 Basin to greet the 44 crew of the minehunter to a soundtrack from the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.

The crowds of families cheered, clapped, waved and held up banners as the ship returned from operations in the Gulf.

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Coronavirus restrictions have stopped welcomes like this since March last year, with families unable to wait on naval base jetties to embrace their loved ones as they return from deployment.

Lieutenant Commander Dan Lee, HMS Brocklesby's Commanding Officer, was greeted by his wife and two daughters.

He told Forces News "the important bit" was giving "something back to the families" that support the ship's crew.

“When you just come back and quietly return home, it's not quite the same," he said.

HMS Brocklesby's sailors last saw their families at the end of May, when they flew out to Bahrain to take charge of the ship.

Leading Hand Oliver Halliwell, Communication Specialist on HMS Brocklesby, told Forces News it is "absolutely brilliant to get back".

"We've been away for five months now on operations, and for myself I’ve been away for 15 months over the last two years, so to really be back and see everyone properly, and with COVID restrictions lifted, it’s absolutely brilliant."

Watch: Navy's new PODS to increase deployable capability.

And his mother, Simone Halliwell, told Forces News it is "absolutely wonderful" to be able to welcome her son back.

"I can't describe the feeling as the ship comes in, it's just amazing, you just want to pluck them off the ship and hug them."

The crew then began the mission of bringing the ship back to the UK, a 6,000-mile journey, along with HMS Shoreham – due back in Faslane, Scotland, next week.

On the route back, the vessel visited Gibraltar, Sardinia, Crete, Muscat, Djibouti, Oman and stopped at the last known position of HMS Eagle in the western Mediterranean to pay their respects to the 131 dead when she was sunk in 1942.

HMS Brocklesby has been in the Gulf for three years, with the Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessel taking part in 18 operations and exercises while on Operation Kipion in the Gulf.

Lt Cdr Lee said "the trip home is a great opportunity" for the crew.

"For most of this crew they would have flown back and forth to the Gulf but to travel across the Mediterranean and stop in some amazing places is a great experience for them."

Since leaving her home port in 2018, HMS Brocklesby has completed 150,000 nautical miles and completed six crew changes.

HMS Brockleby 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 minehunters.