HMS Daring's darlings send Valentine's message home

After a mammoth nine months away at sea the 200 men and women of HMS Daring have just one thing on their minds on Valentines Day – getting back to their loved ones.

And like Cupid’s arrow the Type 45 destroyer is heading straight home after transiting the Suez Canal to set full steam ahead to arrive for their homecoming at the end of February.

Spelling out their heartfelt message on the flight deck on the most romantic day of the year the sailors are eagerly anticipating seeing their families on the Portsmouth quayside.

The first in class of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers, HMS Daring has been on a global mission which has seen her work with navies across the world, including visiting the Far East and rapidly mobilising to provide disaster relief to the Philippines.

As a first deployment this has been amazing, I have seen so much of the world and was so proud to be able to help in the Philippines.

Engineering Technician (Marine Engineer) Leanne Kelland

At nine months the deployment is one of the longest for the surface fleet meaning families have endured many months of separation over thousands of miles. Newly weds will be able to reunite as will fathers with their children born just a few weeks before the ship deployed.

Lieutenant Jason Hannigan, the Ship’s Operation Officer, said: “We have proven this is a very capable warship, but without the support of our loved ones our sailors would not be able to operate at their best. Daring’s naval family has been stretched over many thousands of miles, but we have all been there for each other.”

After leaving her home port in May 2013 HMS Daring has called at 21 different ports and sailed more than 38,000 miles. She has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, supported anti-piracy operations in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Aden, tracked ballistic targets in the Pacific Ocean and provided immediate humanitarian support to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Hiayan.

She also exercised with 15  Navies along the way as well as in the Tasman Sea, South China Sea, East China Sea, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Red Sea and will shortly continue operations in the Mediterranean Sea.

HMS Daring has now finished her transit of the Suez Canal after escorting the French Navy ship Meuse through the Bab El Mandeb strait – Arabic for ‘Gate of Tears’.

Chief Petty Officer Weapon Engineer Steve Hull, the ship’s gun maintainer, said: “It’s been a busy time keeping all the ship’s armaments ready for operations and I’ve enjoyed preparing all the guns for the live firing exercises we’ve undertaken – it’s better for the kit to be used and it keeps the operators sharp. Aside from the work aspect though I have to say I am really looking forward to getting home in time for my daughter’s wedding.”

Home comforts have also been sorely missed – with the next few weeks not going quick enough for the youngest member of the ship’s company, 18-year-old Engineering Technician (Marine Engineer) Leanne Kelland.

She said: “As a first deployment this has been amazing, I have seen so much of the world and was so proud to be able to help in the Philippines. I do miss my Mum’s home-made spaghetti bolognese though!”

Commander Angus Essenhigh, the HMS Daring’s Commanding Officer, is also looking forward to seeing his wife and two young children.

“Everyone onboard appreciates the wonderful support they receive from home; it is a significant contributing factor to the morale of each and every sailor and therefore to our ship’s fighting efficiency,” he said.