Cheering crowds welcome back HMS Duncan from nine-month Middle East deployment

Hundreds of families gave a rousing welcome to HMS Duncan today (27/11) as she returned to Portsmouth from her maiden nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

The Type 45 destroyer – the UK’s newest warship - left the UK in March and has sailed 43,000 nautical miles and visited 14 countries.

She has policed busy shipping lanes in seven different seas and two oceans and provided protection for the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during air strikes against ISIL. 

Working with the carrier in the northern Gulf, Duncan used her state-of-the-art Samson radar to monitor air traffic.

Duncan also fired 90,000 bullets during exercises with a number of other navies and coastguards including live gunnery training against floating targets with warships from US and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

I am immensely proud of the work HMS Duncan’s 240 sailors and marines have completed over these nine months away from the UK.

Commander Richard Atkinson

Commander Richard Atkinson, HMS Duncan’s commanding officer, said: “I am immensely proud of the work HMS Duncan’s 240 sailors and marines have completed over these nine months away from the UK.

“We primarily worked to provide surface and air defence to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt while she conducted day and night strikes against ISIL. 

As Britain’s newest warship, a formidable Type 45 air defence destroyer, our very presence in the Gulf, off Yemen or in the Black Sea, showed the ongoing commitment of the Royal Navy in maintaining safety, security and freedom of navigation at sea.

“Our work and training alongside Gulf navies and coastguards, and with our NATO allies, demonstrated our readiness to deal with any incidents, from helping injured fisherman at sea to the more challenging air defence and surveillance tasks associated with a complex and occasionally volatile region.”

He added: “This nine-month deployment has been the culmination of a lot of hard work by HMS Duncan’s crew from bringing her into service in late 2013, through intense training and preparations in 2014 and then into this successful period of operations.

"I thank the families of all my sailors and marines for the support they have provided us in achieving all this – we are all very much looking forward to some time at home with our families and friends.”

Among the crew on board was a specialist Royal Marines team which boarded vessels throughout Duncan’s area of operations and trained with GCC forces and US personnel.

Duncan’s Lynx helicopter, from 815 Squadron based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset, also played a key role in the deployment - monitoring hundreds of square miles for small vessels by day and night.

The ship also hosted one of the Royal Navy’s new Wildcat helicopters for hot-weather trials in the hot, humid conditions of the Gulf.

For Able Seaman (Warfare Specialist) Karl Murray, 22, from Peterlee, County Durham, the deployment was his first in the Royal Navy. He said: “This trip has been an adventure and it has made me appreciate all the small things you miss at home a lot more, like family, my girlfriend and Newcastle United.

"Working with allied navies, I am glad to have been able to do my job for real.”

After handing over to her sister ship HMS Defender at the start of November, HMS Duncan was the first major British warship this decade to visit the Black Sea and train with the navies of NATO allies Romania and Bulgaria. 

In another first for the ship, Duncan has been taking part in a healthy lifestyle pilot to see how sailors’ diets can be improved.  With new healthier meal options, the ship consumed ten tonnes of couscous, a multitude of healthy pulses including chickpeas and lentils, and tonnes of fruit.

The crew has been put through its paces by Sergeant Chris Abrams - the first Royal Marine warship physical training instructor since 1976. He said: “I have really enjoyed the challenge of helping people lose weight as keeping active during long patrols at sea can be a real challenge.

“This trial has helped break that status quo and get people interested in their health and fitness again,” he said.

Weekly weigh-ins have kept close tabs on progress, with some sailors losing up to 20kg.

Duncan’s logistics department has also been kept busy keeping the ship topped up with essentials. During the deployment the ship’s company have consumed 12,000 eggs, 16 tonnes of potatoes and 13,000 apples. And the ship has used enough diesel fuel to drive a Ford Mondeo around the world 5,000 times.