Two Royal Navy vessels have returned to their home ports after spending three years deployed to the Gulf.
Family and friends of the sailors on board mine countermeasures vessel HMS Ledbury gathered at the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth to wave them home, while minehunter HMS Blyth was also given a warm welcome as she sailed into HMNB Clyde.
The ships were based in Bahrain as part of a mission to protect shipping through the region, working alongside two other mine countermeasure vessels.
HMS Ledbury's crew had been on board since January, returning home to the UK in very different circumstances due to the coronavirus crisis.
Despite the traditional homecoming being cancelled due to the pandemic, family were still excited to see their loved ones.
Jane Lamb, 29, was with son Ethan, four, and two-year-old daughter Aria, to greet Able Seaman Shaun Lamb, from Portsmouth.
She said: "I’m excited, but I’m used to running everything myself and now I’ve got to fit him back in."
She said her husband and the crew were preparing themselves for a world changed by Covid-19.
Mrs Lamb said: "He’s excited but daunted as everything has completely changed. For them it’s been business as usual.
"They’ve been allowed shore leave but we were meant to go out and visit him in Dubai in May for my birthday but it was cancelled. I was gutted."
Ethan said: "I’m really excited. I’m going to say ‘I love you’ when I see Daddy."
AS Lamb, 27, said: "I’m absolutely buzzing to be back, it’s a little bit worrying as we don’t know how things will be with COVID-19."
During the crew’s eight-month deployment, they have spent 116 days at sea, with the ship’s anti-mine drone Seafox carrying out 57 missions and the vessel’s clearance teams making 88 dives.
Commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Matt Ellicott, said: "It is a shame that our families aren’t able to greet us within the naval base but it’s always great to see them and so many well-wishers at Round Tower and Southsea Beach to welcome us home.
"A proud crew have completed a highly successful eight-month deployment in the Middle East against a backdrop of high regional tensions.
"This is a hugely commendable effort and testament to our people."
HMS Ledbury, the Royal Navy's oldest seafaring warship, will now undergo a period of maintenance in base.
In Clyde, HMS Blyth's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Pete Ellison, also praised his crew, saying: "My thanks must go to my crew for their professionalism and commitment, but also to our families at home.
"They have faced an extended and very challenging period with their loved-ones away at sea and I am extremely grateful for their support."
Last week, HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance arrived in Bahrain to replace HMS Blyth and HMS Ledbury on Operation Kipion.
Cover image: People wave as HMS Ledbury arrived back in Portsmouth (Picture: Royal Navy).