Hundreds of happy families and friends welcomed home their loved ones on board HMS Bulwark today (14 January) as the ship returned home from a three-month deployment in time for Christmas.

The crew of the Royal Navy’s amphibious flagship HMS Bulwark arrived at a warm welcome fit for heroes after the successful amphibious flagship role with the Royal Navy’s Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) Task Group in the Middle East and Mediterranean. 

HMS Bulwark re-entered her base port HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth, with her crew lining the deck on parade as about 600 joyous banner-waving families and friends lined the jetty to cheer them home, heralded by a helicopter flypast and gunfire salute.

Captain James Parkin, the Captain of HMS Bulwark said: “It’s wonderful to see so many happy smiling faces welcoming us home. My amazing ship’s company deserve a special Christmas with their families and friends.’’

Heroic fundraising effort

HMS Bulwark has been an active fundraising vessel throughout its various year-long deployments.

Her crew have run marathons, sold poppies and baked cakes to raise funds for a variety of charities, and have donated nearly £14,000 to good causes over the last 12 months - including an outstanding 65 mile run in 12 hours around the upper deck by Marine Ryan Joslin; last week the ship even held an “auction of promises”, which raised over £4,000 alone for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, with lots including being first off the ship on return from deployment, acting as captain for the day.

First off the ship to rush onto the jetty and into the arms of his girlfriend Danielle, 22, and his baby Daisy was Able Seaman Mike Howell, 25. The honour of being the first off was his after he won a charity auction in aid of the RNRMC.

Mike, a steward from Plymouth, said: “I’m so happy to be back home and see Daisy again. She’s not a true baby anymore. I’m not sure she recognises me yet, but she’s grown a lot. Christmas is going to be extra special – Daisy’s first.’’

Danielle said: “It’s double celebration today – Daisy’s first birthday and her dad back home with us. We’ll have a really good Christmas now he’s home. But it will have to wait until after the 25th because, unfortunately, he’s on duty over Christmas.’’

Captain Parkin added: “HMS Bulwark has had a fantastic deployment. From demanding amphibious operations, through engagement with our partners and allies in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, to being constantly ready for emergent tasking, my sailors and Royal Marines have been outstanding ambassadors for the United Kingdom. They, and their forebears over the last five years of this operating period, have delivered a ship with an outstanding reputation for getting the job done in the Royal Navy and far beyond.”