Portland's namesake naval warship has returned to English shores after a seven-month deployment – without the ship’s commander.
HMS Portland arrived to a rapturous welcome in Plymouth yesterday after a deployment to West Africa, the Falkland Islands and the Caribbean.
The ship’s commander Sarah West, pictured right, the first woman to command a frontline Navy ship, was reportedly sent home after an allegation she had an affair with a crew member on-board the ship.
A spokesman for the Royal Navy confirmed Commander West was not at the homecoming as she was still on leave.
More than 600 family and friends cheered as the crew, some of whom are from Dorset, disembarked the ship. Children of the crew were given miniature medals with the inscription “My Little Hero” to thank them for coping without their parents during the seven months.
Lieutenant Commander Rob Brann, the ship’s executive officer said: “It has been a huge honour to bring Portland home, but more importantly, to re-unite the families with their loved ones.
“Without the support of these friends and families, HMS Portland could not have achieved so much.
“I am extremely proud of what HMS Portland has achieved throughout this operational deployment. This success demonstrates the versatility of a deployed Royal Navy warship and is directly attributable to the people on board; a highly professional team.”
During its seven-month deployment, the ship completed maritime security operations including counter narcotics and anti-piracy patrols in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The ship participated in multi-national maritime exercises with Navies from 15 nations.
In the early part of the deployment, HMS Portland conducted defence engagement activities in West Africa, with a number of maritime security conferences hosted onboard aimed at improving regional co-operation to tackle illegal maritime activity in and around the Gulf of Guinea.
During port visits, the ship’s company trained sailors from West African nations.
The ship then spent four weeks patrolling the waters around the Falkland Islands and crew also took part in memorial services in the Falklands.
In the Caribbean HMS Portland embarked a United States Coast Guard law enforcement team for four weeks of counter narcotic patrols.
However, the final few weeks of the deployment were mired in controversy as the Commander West, who had taken control of the ship in 2012, was alleged to have had an affair with a member of the ship’s company, and was sent home on leave as the Royal Navy continues to investigate the allegation.