Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond returns to Portsmouth today after an historic Middle East deployment that saw her shoot down nine drones and a Houthi missile.

The Type 45 spent six months helping safeguard vital international shipping lanes against indiscriminate attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden – through which 11 per cent of global trade passes.

The ship’s momentous mission saw her sail nearly 44,000 miles, spending 151 days at sea and, in one night on January 9, shoot down seven drones aimed at merchant vessels by the Houthis in Yemen – the most aerial threats neutralised by a Royal Navy warship in modern times in one day.

Her tenth and last target shot down was also a landmark moment. Never has a British ship, aircraft or otherwise engaged a target travelling so fast as the Houthi missile Diamond destroyed in the Gulf of Aden in April.

Lieutenant Freddy Hamblin, Diamond’s Officer of the Watch 4, recalls the night Diamond shot down seven drones using her advanced Sea Viper missiles and guns as the international task group in the region sprang into action.

He said: “I’d just come on watch after sunset when we anticipated the large-scale drone attack.

“As they closed on us the apprehension and excitement built and it was great to see the crew’s training kicking in.

“When US Navy units began engaging the sky lit up with orange sparks like fireworks. When you engage with Sea Viper, the whole bridge shakes and there’s a bright flash and a loud whoosh, followed by silence and darkness.

“We have such trust in the ship and in each other. The professionalism and skills we’ve built as a team is hard to replicate and we’ve built absolute faith in the command and in the capabilities of the ship.

“After seven months we’ve built a great team but it’s good to be coming home now.”

Leading Writer Ben Maple added: “We train for scenarios like these and to be part of it for real was adrenaline inducing and to know we saved lives will stay with me forever.

“After only seeing my loving wife and three children for four weeks since September 2023, I am looking forward to seeing my children smile and to see how much they have grown.

“As for my wife, Emma who has been mum and dad for months, I’m looking forward to just being around her, and we are overdue a date night.”

Diamond spent more than two months in the melting pot of high or medium threat areas, on a relentless operational pace – her Wildcat helicopter flew sorties amounting to 200 hours.

Her ship’s company return home with their heads held high, welcomed back to Portsmouth for an emotional reunion with loved ones after months spent in harm’s way.

Some family members also sailed with the ship back into homeport.

Able Rating (Above Water Tactical) Nas Naseem, said: “We made history working with coalition nations and Diamond’s presence has definitely saved lives.

“It feels good to be returning home – I never thought I would say this but I’m excited to experience what I hope is a cold and rainy summer. What I’m looking forward to most is spending time with the family and watching the Euros.”

Petty Officer Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineering) Daniel Kirsopp added: “The humour of the team sticks with me. We were joking as we worked but the reality of what was happening was crazy.

“It didn’t fully strike you as real until after firing the missiles. For the next few days, it was all everyone could talk about across the ship, there was a real sense of achievement that we had actually done something tangible to help.

“Now we’re coming home it’s strange; there’s disbelief that you ever will be. This is my last trip in the Royal Navy so I’ve got a lot of mixed emotions.

“I’m relieved to have got the job done but it’s sad at the same time. I’ll definitely be proud to have finished the whole trip. The whole ship’s company should be proud, we’ve achieved a lot.”

Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) James Wynne said: “It was rewarding to do something so operational. I can’t wait to get home; I haven’t seen my family in 10 or 11 months.

“I’m looking forward to having a drink with my friends and family, celebrating Christmas and Easter and summer all in one. My brother is recently engaged too, so I’m looking forward to organising his stag do.”

Diamond spent the final weeks of her deployment on patrolling to counter illegal activity, seizing 2.4 tonnes of drugs in the Indian Ocean.

In total, the destroyer has been deployed for ten months after initially escorting aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for major NATO exercises off the coast of Norway last autumn.

Commanding Officer, Commander Peter Evans, said: “The sailors onboard HMS Diamond have been fantastic – through the ten months we’ve been away, they have demonstrated courage, professionalism and the very best of teamwork.

“Whether it be operating as part of the Carrier Strike Group within the Arctic Circle, fighting in the Red Sea to protect merchant sea-farers lives or conducting counter narcotic operations; every success that Diamond has achieved for the RN and UK Defence is due to her ship’s company.

“We’re now really excited to be home with our friends and families, whose support has been absolutely critical to us on board.”

The important news is… Diamond consumed 1,362 tins of baked beans, 5,837 eggs, 10,896 litres of milk, 3,405kg of cheese, 36,750kg of potatoes and 40,860 sausages during her deployment.

Navigating Officer, Lieutenant Josh Tyrie, said: “The memory that stands out most is at action on January 9, watching missiles launch from Diamond and USS Gravely.

“All in defence of merchant vessels and driving them clear of the threat – it was visually spectacular.

“We manoeuvred at high speeds in the dark and in close proximity to merchant vessels and allied warships.

“The most impressive thing I’ve seen aboard is the transition from a ship focussed on peacetime exercises to a capable front-line fighting unit that was able to prove itself in conflict.

“It was exceedingly rewarding to put all that training into practice and see it stand up to the test. As far as coming home, I’m excited of course.

“The ship’s been deployed since the beginning of September and I’m looking forward to the ship’s company getting well-deserved leave after conducting operations from the High North to the Gulf of Oman.”

Deputy Marine Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Jack Langham, added: “I think of the general alarm sounding with only moments to react but being totally reassured by the professionalism of my crew mates.

“Also, witnessing an allied missiles streak overhead from the flight deck. My department has kept this ship running through extreme heat and demanding operational requirements and we’ve provided the highest levels of availability.

“We were only able to do so through relentless hard work and the application of engineering excellence that has fast become a standard.

“The success of the Marine Engineering department has underpinned the success of Diamond and I am immensely proud of the team.

“I feel relieved to be coming home now, but also proud of what has been a phenomenal journey.

“We return to base port with heads held high having saved lives in a highly operational deployment. I’m looking forward to spinning some steely war dits (stories) to my colleagues, playing some village cricket; most of all, relaxing.”