“Being in the Royal Navy has changed me – for the better.”
These were the words of a young sailor from Wick moments after he returned from his first deployment overseas on Friday.
Able Seaman Bradley Alderton was reunited with his family after completing a 13-month mission on board Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Mersey.
The 21-year-old said he was almost in tears when he saw his family waiting for him on the jetty at Portsmouth Naval Base.
AB Alderton – a former student at The Littlehampton Academy – said: “It was an amazing experience. I had a little tear come to my eye as I came back to Portsmouth.
“Being on my first ship was really nerve-wracking at first but the ship’s company really made me feel at home so quickly.
“It was a brilliant deployment.”
HMS Mersey is one of the navy’s River-class patrol vessels.
Normally tasked with fishery protection duties in the UK, Mersey was sent on an epic mission, which saw her sailing across the world.
Leaving her home in Portsmouth in January 2016, she sailed to Caribbean before travelling east to the Mediterranean and later on to the Aegean.
In the course of her mission, Mersey and her crew assisted in a £12m cocaine bust off the coast of Nicaragua in April.
In the second half of the deployment, the warship was part of the UK’s contribution to the Nato fleet in Aegean combatting people traffickers.
Greeting AB Alderton was his mum Julie, dad Tony, and sisters Kirsty and Dani.
Proud mum Julie, 46, wept as she hugged her son. She said: “It’s been hard as a mother to see him go.
“It was his first deployment and he missed Christmas this year.
“But we’re all just so incredibly proud of him. There’s just a huge sense of pride.
“He went into the Navy a boy and came out a man. He has completely changed – for the better.”
Kirsty, who is Littlehampton’s former Carnival Queen, added: “It’s really exciting to see him. It’s been amazing.”
Since deploying last year, Mersey has sailed 48,000 miles, visiting 32 ports in 19 countries and used two million litres of diesel – enough to drive the average family car 647 times around the world, or to the moon and back 30 times.
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