THE 116 crew members of HMS Spartan, the Royal Navy nuclear submarine affiliated to Rothesay, returned home to their families just in time for Christmas.
The crew made a poignant return to Faslane last week at the end of HMS Spartan's final patrol as a Royal Navy vessel after 26 years in the fleet - she will be decommissioned at the end of January.
The 5,000 tonne vessel was met by scores of the crews' family and friends who stood on the jetty and watched Spartan come alongside at her Gare Loch berth.
Since sailing from Scotland in mid-July, Spartan has been deployed to the South Atlantic and Gulf regions, where she has conducted patrols - and has also found time to enjoy visits to Rio de Janeiro, La Reunion, Fujairah and Dubai.
Their goodwill port visit to Rio de Janeiro was a particular highlight as this was the first time that a Royal Navy nuclear powered warship had visited Brazil.
During the visit Spartan conducted a two day exercise with the Brazilian Navy to further develop training and cooperation between the forces through an anti-submarine warfare exercise.
When in Rio de Janeiro crew members also visited an orphanage where they helped to refurbish a children's' basketball court and cleared some land allowing a new accommodation building to be started.
The Spartan football team also lost 8-2 to a Brazilian Navy select before they departed!
Commander Paul Halton, the vessel's captain, said: "This has been a very successful deployment and it is great to be coming home for some well earned leave and just in time for Christmas."
(This story first appeared in The Buteman on Friday, December 30, 2005.)