Around 900 family and friends today cheered HMS Argyll home after her nine-month mission to the Pacific.
Just days after rescuing all the crew of a blazing container ship off the French coast, the frigate and her 210 sailors and Royal Marines arrived back in Plymouth.
The warship covered the equivalent of one and a half times around the globe as she sailed to Tokyo and back via Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Diego Garcia, Greece and Malta.
Her crew safeguarded shipping passing Yemen – in the face of threats of attacks on vessels from rebels, relying on her Sea Ceptor defence system to watch for potential missile attacks.
Six times Argyll ran the gauntlet of the Bab al Mandeb Strait doing exactly what she was designed to do: protect high-value shipping.
After the tension of the Red Sea, there was a chance to renew old friendships in Pakistan with former Royal Navy ship HMS Ambuscade, sold to the Commonwealth nation two decades and still in service as the PNS Tariq.
Off Singapore, the ship took part in exercises with the Malay, Australian, New Zealand and host’s navies as part of their long-running commitment to protect the region and maintain freedom of the seas.
Afterwards, sailors enjoyed a short break in Singapore – allowing maintenance to be carried out on the ship and the crew to fly home or fly their families out before the frigate moved on to the crunch part of her deployment: operating off Japan.
Following some combined training with the US and Japanese Navies, Argyll conducted several weeks of patrols enforcing the UN Embargo on North Korea’s fuel imports by keeping a close eye on shipping in the East China Sea.
Tokyo and Japan were the high-water mark of the deployment, since when Argyll has made her way back towards the UK.
She paid rare visits to Kota Kinabalu on Borneo and Brunei, where locals were given the opportunity to look around, enjoyed four days in the remote Indian Ocean island and military base of Diego Garcia to try shark fishing and beach barbecues.
There were further stops on the way home, including Athens and Malta, before the drama on Sunday night/Monday morning of the blazing Grande America off Brittany where a concerted effort by everyone on board ensured all the cargo ship’s 27 sailors were saved before the 28,000-tonne vessel sank.
The last act of the deployment was to fly off her Wildcat helicopter and its crew/engineers to Yeovilton on Wednesday – while riding out Storm Gareth in the relative shelter of Falmouth Bay.
“After spending 270 days deployed from the UK across both hemispheres and as far East as Japan, my ship’s company will now enjoy some well-deserved leave at home before resuming operations in the summer,” said the frigate’s Commanding Officer Commander Toby Shaughnessy.
“Many of the ship’s company were enjoying their first days at sea in their career – it was a chance to travel the world and experience some of what it has to offer and have a unique Argyll story to tell.”