HMS Cumberland's final return to Devonport in Plymouth

Friends and family welcome the crew of HMS Cumberland in Devonport

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HMS Cumberland has returned to her home port of Plymouth after her final deployment.

Friends and family standing on the cliff-top at Devil's Point welcomed back the crew who helped evacuate refugees from Libya to Malta.

The vessel, nicknamed "fighting sausage", left Devonport naval base on 30 September 2010.

In December, the government announced that four Type 22 frigates including HMS Cumberland were to be scrapped.

She is the latest warship due to be decommissioned under the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

Due to return for decommissioning in early 2011, HMS Cumberland's return to the UK was delayed due to the crisis in Libya.

HMS CUMBERLAND FACTS

  • Batch 3 Type 22 frigate
  • Pennant number F85
  • Commissioned in June 1989
  • Built on the Clyde in Scotland
  • 468ft (148m) long
  • Normally carries 260 sailors
  • 16th ship to carry the name
  • The first was commissioned in 1695

The ship transported more than 450 people from Benghazi in Libya to Malta.

Lt Cdr Jim Bagshaw said: "Clearly a lot of people on board had never been on a ship before and the weather was quite atrocious on the passage to Malta.

"That said, each and every person on board was simply grateful to have escaped the troubles and to have a safe haven."

Many members of the ship's company entertained children and changed nappies because the children's parents were too ill to do so themselves.

After the evacuees landed in Malta, HMS Cumberland sailed again, switching to enforcing the UN arms embargo.

HMS Cumberland returns with a gun salute

She has now handed over her responsibilities to HMS Liverpool.

She was escorted in to Devonport by sea and air and fired a gun salute to announce her arrival.

A formal decommissioning ceremony will be held at Devonport on 23 June.

Commanding officer, Capt Steve Dainton, said: "Cumberland's final deployment has shown just how useful a warship like her can be.

"We have undertaken a huge range of missions in the last six and a half months and it's a fine example of the flexibility and agility of naval forces.

"It is fitting that a ship that has served her country so well for over 20 years has bowed out in such style. "

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