HUNDREDS of friends and family will welcome Sunderland’s adopted warship when she arrives home this week.
HMS Ocean is due to return to Devonport, in Plymouth, on Friday after completing a seven-and-a-half-month deployment.
The 22,000-tonne vessel was part of the Cougar deployment, which ensures that Britain’s new Response Force Task Group was ready to respond to changing world events.
Ocean was also called upon to support the UN-backed mission to protect Libyan civilians, as part of Nato’s Operation Unified Protector.
As Libyan rebels fought Gaddafi forces, HMS Ocean launched Britain’s first seaborne Apache raid, destroying military vehicles, installations and communications equipment.
HMS Ocean’s commanding officer, Captain Andrew Betton, said: “After uncertainty in our programme we are all delighted to be back home for Christmas and are really looking forward to seeing our loved ones again.
“Our families and friends have been a huge support during this deployment and it will be wonderful to be home with them for this most special of family occasions, particularly for those of us with small children.”