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Christmas cheer as hundreds of loved ones welcome HMS Duncan home from Mediterranean

Christmas cheer as hundreds of loved ones welcome HMS Duncan home from Mediterranean
22 December 2023
Hundreds of emotional families and loved ones welcomed the last Royal Navy warship to return home for Christmas as HMS Duncan returned to Portsmouth today.

Some 700 people were waiting on the jetty for the 200 sailors aboard HMS Duncan, which has spent seven in every ten days of 2023 deployed.

Most notably the destroyer has been in the Eastern Mediterranean for the past six months, leading NATO’s premier security mission in the region – known as Standing NATO Maritime Task Group 2 (SNMG2) – as world events continue to cause uncertainty and instability.

In all, HMS Duncan sailed more than 35,000 miles and spent 270 days of 2023 deployed as she led 19 different warships from nine alliance nations.

Crew and loved ones were reunited with three days to spare till Christmas, putting the seal on a deployment which saw them visit six countries and stop in eight different ports.

“We thank our families and friends for their continued support,” said Commanding Officer, Commander Ben Martin.

“It has been invaluable as Duncan delivered on operations despite the challenges and uncertainty we faced.

“I am proud of Duncan’s sailors who always delivered the highest of standards, and we look forward to being reunited with families and being home for Christmas.”

HMS Duncan’s exploits saw her earn the Royal Navy Destroyer of the Year trophy as she led SNMG2, commanded from onboard by Commodore Paul Stroude and his staff.

The task group focused on its role as part of the alliance’s very high readiness joint task force, which was activated in response to Russia’s ongoing unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The task group maintained – as NATO states – “ceaseless vigilance, presence and readiness to reassure regional allies, deter adversaries and, if necessary, defend NATO territorial integrity”.

“As the flagship we undertook the significant responsibility of carrying the NATO Commander and his staff, responsible for NATO’s contribution to Maritime Security in the Mediterranean region,” added Cdr Martin.

“Whilst this brought with it its own set of challenges, Duncan’s sailors have risen to them with nothing less than their characteristic professionalism and can-do attitude.

“This work was vital to the work of NATO which, at present, is heavily engaged in reassuring our friends and allies overseas in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the recent Israel-Hamas crisis.”

Leading Physical Trainer Loz Parsons has been central to keeping sailors’ morale up, hosting 187 flight deck circuit sessions and 17 yoga sessions during the ship’s deployment.

“I have seen people grow from the very beginning and seen how much every single person has improved, grown stronger, become fitter and most of all got the feeling where they are confident and resilient and it’s such an incredible journey to watch,” LPT Parsons said.

“Each and every person who has come to circuits has become part of the little family where we encourage each other, motivate each other, push each other through on the days where we don’t feel so strong and most of all work extremely hard every single time.”

Sailors also enjoyed paddle boarding and cliff jumping activities in the Adriatic Ocean in Bari, Italy, and the ship’s football team won two tournaments along the way.

The ship will now prepare for operations in 2024.

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