Have you ever stood on the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth, as a once dignified ship of the Royal Navy passed by on her way to the breaker’s yard?
I sometimes get the feeling it is like a person going on their final journey, especially if it is a ship with a proud history. What it must be like for those who once walked the decks of these ships I cannot imagine.
This photo was sent to me by Michael Cooper who took it in 1967 as the Town class cruiser HMS Sheffield made her way from Fareham Creek where she had languished for several years, rusting away after being cannibalised.
Sheffield was always known as the Shiny Sheff because her fittings were constructed of stainless steel instead of brass which meant less cleaning.
She was launched on July 23, 1936, and commissioned on August 25, 1937.
During the war she was nearly sunk in friendly fire incident – one of HMS Ark Royal’s Fairy Swordfish launched a torpedo attacke on her believing she was the German Bismarck.
On June 12, 1941, she sank a tanker used to supply the Bismarck and in October another supply ship.
In February 1943 she supported the landings at Salerno and on returning to the Arctic she assisted in the sinking of the battleship Scharnhorst.
In 1944 she was an escort to the carrier force that carried out air attacks on the Tirpitz.
After this she went to Boston, USA, for a complete refit and took part in the Fleet Review for the Queen in 1953.
In 1955 she took the part of HMS Ajax in the film Battle of the River Plate.
In 1959 she was in reserve and served in the Reserve Fleet at sea in 1960. She then became an accommodation ship until 1964 when she was placed on the disposal list and languished in the cold mud and waters of Fareham Creek.
She was towed away in 1967, missed by no one save perhaps a few former members of the ship’s company, to Faslane to become razor blades.
Her stainless steel bell hangs in Sheffield Cathedral.