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Sailors reunited with loved ones after HMS Prince of Wales arrives at Portsmouth naval base | UK News

Sailors on board the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales were met by crowds of loved ones as the vessel returned to a UK naval base.

About 2,600 people waited on the jetty at Portsmouth as the ship arrived, many waving flags and holding banners as they welcomed the crew.

The £3bn warship had been on a three-month deployment to carry out flight trials with the US Marine Corps and F-35B stealth fighter jets.

Captain Richard Hewitt, the ship’s commanding officer from Kingsbridge, Devon, was met by his wife Clara and sons Ben, two, William, eight, and Oliver, 10.

“All of the families have missed them and we are really proud of all that they have achieved. We all worked hard in the UK to get them away,” Mrs Hewitt said.

Friends and family of members of crew welcome back the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as it returns to Portsmouth Naval Base following a three-month deployment to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where the Prince of Wales has been undergoing trials and operating with aircraft and drones. Picture date: Monday December 11, 2023.

Oliver said: “I’m happy, emotional and proud,” while William added: “It’s really inspirational.”

Mr Hewitt labelled the deployment as “hugely successful”.

Midshipman Joshua Wood hugs his partner after the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth Naval Base following it's three-month deployment to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where the Prince of Wales has been undergoing trials and operating with aircraft and drones. Picture date: Monday December 11, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story DEFENCE Carrier. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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Midshipman Joshua Wood hugs his partner

Sailors wave from the stern of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as it returns to Portsmouth Naval Base following a three-month deployment to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where the Prince of Wales has been undergoing trials and operating with aircraft and drones. Picture date: Monday December 11, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story DEFENCE Carrier. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

“During the past three and a half months we have pushed the boundaries of naval aviation, worked hand in hand with our US partners and ensured the continued advancement of Queen Elizabeth class aviation,” he said.

“I am immensely proud of all on board who have been nothing short of brilliant. My particular thanks go to all those who have supported us from home.”

AB Lucy Phillips (right) and her fiance AB Luke Gorst meet family after the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth Naval Base following it's three-month deployment to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where the Prince of Wales has been undergoing trials and operating with aircraft and drones. Picture date: Monday December 11, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story DEFENCE Carrier. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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AB Lucy Phillips and her fiance, AB Luke Gorst

Able seaman (AB) Lucy Phillips, 21, from Waltham Abbey, east London, and AB Luke Gorst, 22, from Chester, Cheshire, said they were planning celebrations with family and friends after getting engaged during the deployment.

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“Popping the question was one of the scariest things. I only told a select few on board before but the ring was burning a hole in my pocket and I wanted to do it, I just had to find the perfect moment,” Mr Gorst said.

AB Yasmine Mante (centre) is greeted by family after the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth Naval Base following it's three-month deployment to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where the Prince of Wales has been undergoing trials and operating with aircraft and drones. Picture date: Monday December 11, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story DEFENCE Carrier. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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AB Yasmine Mante (centre) with her family

Sailors line up on the side of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as it returns to Portsmouth Naval Base following a three-month deployment to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where the Prince of Wales has been undergoing trials and operating with aircraft and drones. Picture date: Monday December 11, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story DEFENCE Carrier. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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Sailors line up on the side of HMS Prince of Wales on arrival in Portsmouth

Ms Phillips said the crew had a party on board after their engagement in Jacksonville, Florida, but the wedding planning “starts now”.

“It’s amazing to be back, it’s been a long time coming,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Randle, fiancee to Petty Officer Nicholas Baker, 32, from Derby said her cheeks were hurting from smiling so much.

She was waiting on shore with their daughter Amelia-Rose, who turns two next week.

Petty Officer Nicholas Baker holds his daughter Amelia-Rose after the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth Naval Base following it's three-month deployment to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, where the Prince of Wales has been undergoing trials and operating with aircraft and drones. Picture date: Monday December 11, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story DEFENCE Carrier. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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Petty Officer Nicholas Baker holds his daughter Amelia-Rose

Whilst in the US, the ship also assisted in trials with small pilotless drones which could take the place of helicopters delivering supplies to a task group, and with larger crewless aircraft used for long-range surveillance or strike missions.

The ship will now undergo maintenance before carrying out further training exercises before its first carrier strike group deployment in 2025.

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