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Hundreds welcome home HMS Dauntless to Hampshire
2:46pm Tuesday 30th October 2012 in News
Hundreds of family members have lined the quayside to welcome home the crew of one of the Royal Navy's most advanced warships as it returned from its maiden deployment.
HMS Dauntless returned to its home port of Portsmouth Naval Base from a seven-month voyage circumnavigating the Atlantic Ocean.
Its arrival was marked with a flypast by two Typhoon jets.
Family members waved banners as they cheered for their loved ones as the ship pulled up alongside.
Among the crew was Lieutenant Vinnie Vuniwaqa, from Portsmouth, whose son Jacob was born during the deployment.
He was welcomed by his wife Andrea, Jacob, who is now four months old, and Amelia, aged two.
He said: ''It's really good to be back, everyone has been really looking forward to it.
''It's great to see the children, they have grown up so much. I flew back to the UK five days before Jacob was born and it was a wrench to go back. It's always difficult to leave family but we've always been in contact by email and Skype.''
Mrs Vuniwaqa said: ''It's just really good to have him back, I'm just so happy. He came back for the birth but he went away again, he hasn't been around for so many things.''
Leading Seaman Tommy Guttridge, 27, was met by his partner, Leading Seaman Claire Naylor, 29, and their son Leo, two, who had travelled down from their home in Northwich, Cheshire, for the homecoming.
LS Guttridge said: ''It's amazing to see both of them.''
LS Naylor said: ''It's been hard work without him but it's brilliant for him to be back.''
The Type 45 destroyer has clocked up 30,000 miles visiting 18 countries across four continents carrying out security patrols, counter piracy and counter drugs operations and multinational exercises.
Starting with Portugal, HMS Dauntless went on to visit the Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Angola and South Africa.
Following a short routine patrol of the Falklands Islands, the warship headed up to the Caribbean where it visited Colombia, took part in a multinational exercise and was on standby to support potential humanitarian disaster relief operations during the peak of the hurricane season.
Dauntless then spent time in the United States before heading home.
Commanding officer Captain Will Warrender was met by his wife Joanna, daughter Lizzie, seven, and sons Henry, 13, and George, 17.
He said: ''It feels absolutely fantastic to be back from HMS Dauntless's first operational deployment.
''We are truly delighted to be back. I would be lying if I didn't say I missed my family.''
Returning with the ship were comedians Bobby Davro, Jim Davidson, Mike Osman and singer Claire Sweeney, who performed a British Forces Foundation concert on board last night.
Davro said: ''It was fantastic, a privilege and a honour. It is an amazing warship and the crew are fantastic.''
During a series of exercises Dauntless worked with 27 other navies and provided training for 600 foreign military personnel.
The ship also played host to almost 4,000 diplomatic guests on behalf of UK embassies and consulates in every port it visited, and conducted several events in support of defence sales and UK trade and industry.
Nineteen-year-old Able Seaman Warfare Specialist Ryan Skipper, the youngest crew member, said: ''Visiting so many different countries has been great.
''We have been to some superb places and done so many different sorts of things, it has just been one massive experience from start to finish.
''For my first trip away I think I have been really lucky with this one. Seeing the world is one of the things that we all want to do whilst we're in the Navy, so seeing four continents in just one go has been brilliant.''