HMS Dragon returned home to Portsmouth on Friday (November 22) from eight months on operations in the Indian Ocean and eastern Mediterranean. Hundreds of friends and family turned out to welcome the ship back home joined by Portsmouth Military Wives Choir and the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth.
The youngest crew member, 20-year-old Engineering Technician Grant Mitchell and Commanding Officer’s wife, Pippa Lower, were invited to cut a special welcome home cake created as a gift to the ship in celebration of the occasion.
The ship marked her return by firing a 17-gun salute on her approach to Portsmouth Harbour.
The Type 45 destroyer’s maiden deployment included maritime security and counter piracy patrols in the Gulf and operations in the Mediterranean as part of the UK response to the recent crisis in Middle East.
Dragon was deployed off Cyprus to help protect the two sovereign base areas on the island which are home to more than 6,000 British service personnel and their families.
Dragon combined with RAF units to generate a constant picture of activity in the region as part of the air defence effort.
In the Indian Ocean Dragon visited nearly all of the Gulf states including Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Dragon’s tasking also included the use of Royal Marines and the ship’s boats to visit local fisherman – providing an ever-watching presence to contribute to the security of the seas and prevent acts of piracy.
The ship also worked closely with the UK minehunter force in the region, escorting them around the Arabian seas as required.
And in exercises with western allies, including the United States, Dragon showed off her power and capabilities and worked with an array of military firepower in the skies above the Gulf – including US Navy fighter jets and unmanned air vehicles.
Dragon has clocked up more than 50,000 nautical miles since leaving the UK in March. Her Commanding Officer, Captain Iain Lower, said:
“As HMS Dragon returns after her first ever deployment I am immensely proud of what my ship’s company have achieved in the last eight months.
“Dragon’s success is testament to the agility and hard work of all her people who, building on the fine work of her predecessors, have set the standard for integration with our allies particularly with the United States Navy.
“When taken alongside the challenging environmental conditions and engineering and logistical complexities, I am very proud of the team.”
ET (ME) Grant Mitchell, added:
“It is a great feeling to be coming home after all we have done as a ship’s company in the last eight months.
“Working with so many other countries’ navies and visiting so many places has been a great experience.”
Press Release, November 25, 2013; Image: Navy