Type-42 destroyer HMS York returned to cheering crowds of families and well-wishers at Portsmouth Naval Base last week following a varied and wide-ranging deployment to the Falklands in the South Atlantic and Libya.
HMS York sailed into the base in spectacular style, with a powerful 15-gun salute to the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery, a flypast by her Lynx helicopter, and an arc of water heralding the ship's arrival, fired from the jets of the tugs pulling her in.
The warship began her deployment from the UK back on 11 February 2011; originally destined for Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. However, this was quickly altered as events began to unfold in Libya, and HMS York was diverted to Malta to collect 1.5 tonnes of medical equipment - a gift from the Swedish Government - and tasked to take it to the port of Benghazi in Libya.
Following the Libyan experience HMS York took up her original deployment and sailed to Gibraltar and Madeira before making the long transit down the Atlantic Ocean towards the Falkland Islands.
She spent eight weeks patrolling the Falkland Islands a visible deterrent and reassurance for the British citizens living there. During that time, HMS York also visited South Georgia for 12 days to support the British Antarctic Survey team, who are based in the area to conduct conservation surveys of the glaciers and wildlife.
After leaving the Falklands, HMS York headed west into the Magellan Strait and Patagonian Canal for a three-day piloting through to the Pacific Ocean. This kept the bridge team on their toes as the canal is extremely narrow in places and requires considerable navigational skills.
Once in the Pacific Ocean, HMS York's bow swung north towards Lima in Peru.
During her long passage, the ship rendezvoused with two Chilean vessels towards the northern end of Chile, some 97km out into the Pacific Ocean, for Replenishment at Sea.
Following a port stop in Peru, and then sailing through the Gulf of Panama, HMS York met up with RFA Wave Ruler in Kingston, Jamaica, where she has been patrolling as part of her Atlantic Patrol Task (North).
Passage to Key West in Florida allowed the ship's company to stretch their legs, and then two further stops in Bermuda and the Azores followed before the destroyer began her journey home.
Reflecting on the events of the last few months, HMS York's Commanding Officer, Commander Simon Staley, said:
This has been a really terrific deployment for HMS York. Over the last five months we have been called on to conduct an incredibly diverse range of tasks including high-end kinetic and evacuation operations from Libya in the Mediterranean; maritime security operations in the North Atlantic; reassurance and deterrence operations off the Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the South Atlantic; wider regional engagement with our key allies Chile, Peru and Panama in the Pacific Ocean; and counter-narcotic and reassurance operations to our overseas territories in the Caribbean.
There has never been a quiet or dull moment, he continued. HMS York has just sailed 26,858 miles, which is further than once around the equator, and delivered a really impressive tally of positive effects across a huge swathe of the world, which has gone a long way to endorse the Government and MOD's regional policies.
”I have asked much of my ship's company and they have risen to the challenge without fail - not just through the excellent but hugely testing training we received prior to deploying, but also in keeping this fine old lady, now 27 years in commission, sustained and in peak performance ready for any task at any time. They have proven to be the most professional and very best ambassadors for the Royal Navy and this country that I have ever served with”.