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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Praise for UK Lebanon evacuation
HMS Gloucester evacuating Britons from Lebanon
Some 2,526 UK nationals were evacuated from Lebanon
The UK "covered itself in glory" in the Royal Navy's evacuation of people from Lebanon, the chief of one of the ships involved in the mission has said.

Commanding officer of HMS Illustrious Commodore Bob Cooling said no other nation could have executed the task more quickly or professionally.

More than 2,500 UK citizens left Lebanon in July amid Israeli bombing.

Crews of the HMS Illustrious and HMS Gloucester were praised for their role as both ships returned to Portsmouth.

Cmdr Cooling said: "The UK covered itself in glory. The massive logistics cannot be done overnight and no nation could have got there more quickly or done it more professionally than we did.

"I'm absolutely convinced of that."

'High calibre people'

Commander Mike Paterson, commanding officer of HMS Gloucester, paid tribute to the sailors who handled the mission, saying: "The boys settled down very quickly and it went very well.

"That's a good example of the high calibre and the top quality of the people we have on board the ship.

"They were absolutely first class. A very professional bunch."

He said of the evacuees: "They were all gushing with praise for being picked up.

"These people were very frightened when we picked them up. There was a bombing raid which started as we were 100 yards off the jetty heading out."

Other vessels

The warships returned to Portsmouth on Thursday.

They had been towards the end of a security deployment in the Indian Ocean in July when they were diverted to take part in the evacuation operation.

Three other Royal Navy ships and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply vessel also assisted in taking Britons to Cyprus.

In three trips between Lebanon and Cyprus - where evacuees were first taken - HMS Gloucester rescued 766 people. It was the last Royal Navy ship to leave Beirut.

Illustrious took part in the first evacuation, where 100 UK citizens were flown on board in RAF helicopters.

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