THE commanding officer of a Royal Navy patrol ship returned to his roots when he sailed the vessel into Weymouth harbour.

Lieutenant Chris Stevens, 26, berthed the HMS Puncher close to the Royal Dorset Yacht Club as the first port of call on a voyage which will include visits to 14 ports around the south coast, the Channel Islands and northern France.

Lt Stevens, who attended Budmouth College before joining the Britannia Royal Naval College in 2004, said: “I am immensely proud to be able to bring my ship and crew into my home town of Weymouth.

“I have very strong roots in south Dorset and this feels like a proper homecoming for me.”

The HMS Puncher is the Royal Naval Units fast patrol vessel for universities in London, and is travelling with HMS Explorer and HMS Dasher.

The ship is a small patrol vessel, which carries a full-time crew of five, joined by up to 12 university students.

The deployment will give 20 students the opportunity to put into practice what they have learnt on shorter exercises, allowing them to test out their skills in navigation and seamanship.

Midshipman Angus Francis-Coleman, also from Weymouth, said: “Although I have been to Weymouth before on HMS Puncher, it is still a great feeling to return to my hometown, and I am proud to wear the naval uniform in a town that would not normally be visited by a Royal Navy warship.”

There are 14 University Royal Naval Units (URNU) across the country, and each is commanded by a Royal Naval Lieutenant responsible for 51 undergraduates.

The students join as Royal Navy Reservists for their three or four year courses, and take part in training one evening per week and on weekends and holiday periods.

The URNU mission is ‘to broaden naval understanding and develop undergraduates who show potential to become the leaders of tomorrow, through maritime experience and exposure to the values and ethos of the Royal Navy’.