HMS Liverpool returns to its Portsmouth base

HMS Liverpool became the first Royal Navy ship to be fired upon in 30 years

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HMS Liverpool has returned to its home base in Portsmouth after spending seven months on deployment in Libya.

About 1,300 family and friends gathered on the jetty to welcome back the 250-strong crew.

The Type-42 destroyer had been in the Mediterranean in support of the Nato mission to protect Libyan civilians.

While on duty it spent 81 hours at Action Stations and became the first Royal Navy ship to be fired upon since the Falklands conflict.

The new Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, had flown onto the ship to be onboard as it sailed back into the harbour.

Speaking to the crew he said: "You should be proud of the part you played in creating a space where a country could rid itself of a tyrant and end a dictatorship which lasted for 40 years."

'Very real threat'

The warship helped enforce the no-fly zone and conducted embargo operations to prevent arms reaching pro-Gaddafi forces by sea.

First Sea Lord, Mark Stanhope, said: "Much of what the Navy does is below the horizon of our general view.

"This Libyan operation has raised the horizon and shown what the Navy has been doing in support of the mission."

Operation Unified Protector, formally ended on 31 October.

The destroyer, which came into service in 1982, will now make one final visit to Liverpool early next year, before it is decommissioned.

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