The commanding officer of a Faslane-based submarine says his crew are getting started on a “well-deserved break” after returning from a year-long patrol.

HMS Audacious returned home recently from its historic 363-day patrol in the eastern Mediterranean – the longest ever deployment for any of the Royal Navy’s new Astute-class submarines.

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HMS Audacious was sent out in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine - and spent 95 days under NATO command to support their efforts against illicit activity, people smuggling, and illegal trade in the area.

As the submarine passed Rhu Spit on the final leg of its journey home, 150 family members and loved ones waved to the vessel before heading to the nearby Clyde naval base for a long-awaited and emotional reunion.

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Commander James Howard, the commanding officer of HMS Audacious, said: “My ship’s company have delivered an unprecedented period of success on operations.

“We have maintained a highly capable and silent nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine at high readiness for almost a year.

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“In doing so we’ve operated at arm’s length from the UK, providing support to NATO and exercising with partners in the region.

“We could not have achieved this without the support of our families, and I look forward to being able to release my ship’s company for a well-deserved break at home.”

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The majority of the 130-strong crew of submariners took periods of leave and saw family over the festive period.

However, one submariner, navigating officer Lieutenant Greg Johnston, was deployed for the full 363 days.

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While the year was challenging, he says he’s happy to have helped the effort and contribute towards its success.

Lieutenant Johnston said: “Whilst I haven’t been able to go home for a year, the Royal Navy brought my home to me in Cyprus, giving my family and I a Christmas we will always remember.

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“The separation has been difficult. Each time I’m able to video message them I can’t believe how much my daughter has grown.

“However, the challenge of delivering this unprecedented period of operations is one that I will look upon with the satisfaction of a job well done.”

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The families of several of the crew members travelled from all over the UK to finally see their loved ones after a long year away.

Helen Rouse, the mum of one of crew members Conor Rouse, travelled from Lancashire to see her son.

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She said: “It is difficult being out of contact during a deployment and not knowing where your loved-one is.”

“Connor was deployed for the full 12 months except for a very brief period at home.

“He joined the Royal Navy in 2019 and quickly decided that the submarine service was for him, so he is doing what he loves.”