HMS Gloucester's Final Homecoming

A Royal Navy destroyer has returned to Portsmouth for the final time - just a day after an aircraft carrier sailed out as it was towed away to be scrapped.

HMS Gloucester arrived at the naval base on Friday 25th March 2011, having completed a seven-month deployment to the South Atlantic.

On board was the ship's sponsor, the Duchess of Gloucester, who joined the ship to say farewell as it comes to the end of its 25 years of commissioned service.

The arrival of the Type-42 destroyer ahead of its decommissioning in June came a day after HMS Invincible began its four-week journey to be scrapped at the Leyal Ship Recycling centre in Turkey.

The 210-metre carrier, which served in the Falklands, was sold on the Ministry of Defence auction website for a sum thought to be about £2 million.

HMS Gloucester set sail on its last deployment in August last year which saw it become involved in an operation off the west coast of Africa to assist the Cape Verde authorities with a multimillion-pound drugs bust.

The warship intercepted a yacht which was found to be carrying £4 million of cocaine.

The Fighting G, as HMS Gloucester is affectionately known, then continued on its deployment to carry out photographic conservation surveys for the British Antarctic Survey in South Georgia.

It also patrolled the Falkland Islands where it carried out exercises alongside the Army and the RAF's locally-based Typhoon fighter aircraft.

The ship also represented the UK at the Expo Naval trade fair in Valparaiso, Chile - an exhibition of defence technology - before it stopped off for a visit to New York on its return home.

The Duchess of Gloucester, who launched the ship on November 2 1982, was flown on board by helicopter.

She has been closely involved with the ship during its quarter century of service which has seen 15 captains take the helm and two rededications.

Commander David George, the ship's commanding officer, said:

"It has been a long time away from home.

"Working hard has kept us occupied and there have been lots of highlights, but we are now just looking forward to seeing our loved ones again.

"Their support has been immense throughout the deployment. I am very proud that the Duchess has been able to join us, as it conveys to both the sailors and the families how valued they and their service are.''

During the deployment, HMS Gloucester was awarded the 2010 Fleet Efficiency Award by the Royal Navy for being its most effective destroyer last year, attaining the highest standards in both training and on operations.