CHEERS, joyful cries and applause greeted destroyer HMS Duncan home to Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon after nearly seven months away.

More than 500 friends and family were waiting with banners, placards, balloon animals, matching t-shirts and fancy hats to welcome 250 sailors and Royal Marines.

The crew had just completed one of the most varied deployments by a Royal Navy warship in recent years, and the final month of Duncan’s tour of duty was spent safeguarding British shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Type 45 destroyer passed through the narrow waters 29 times – protecting 1.28m tonnes of British merchant vessels (tankers, liquid natural gas, container and cargo ships) from interference.

Commanding officer Tom Trent said: "“When we arrived in the Gulf it was extremely hot, there was real uncertainty and a genuine threat. In protecting shipping, we did what the Royal Navy has done for hundreds of years.

"It was rewarding because we could measure what we achieved: 29 transits of the Strait, 26 ships accompanied and not one ship was taken on our watch."

The destroyer joined French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle as part of the multinational Carrier Strike Group GAN 19 operating off Syria.

HMS Duncan provided air defence to the group as part of operations against ISIS forces in the region.

Commander Trent said he was proud of the men and woman he had worked with: "I cannot put my pride I feel about them into words.

"They have shown resilience, determination, enthusiasm and a good smile at the end."

“The ship is just a big lump of steel with some fancy equipment inside – HMS Duncan is the ship’s company and the family behind them.

“This is a special ship with special people and it has been my pride to have led them through this adventure across 40,000 miles of seas and oceans and a variety of challenges and opportunities."