THE Royal Navy bid a fond farewell to HMS York in an occasion ‘tinged with emotion’.
The Type 42 destroyer’s white ensign was lowered for the final time, bringing the curtain down on 27 years of service to the nation.
The ship’s company were joined by dignitaries, former sailors, and relatives as the warship was paid off.
It leaves just one of the navy’s famous old Type 42s – HMS Edinburgh – still in active service in the fleet.
Sailors have grown accustomed of late to saying goodbye to their much-loved vessels after the government axed 10 ships in its controversial 2010 defence review.
But York’s departure had long been planned as the old destroyers make way for six new £1bn Type 45 warships.
Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, chief of staff for the fleet, said: ‘Too often in recent years, we’ve seen ships discarded in their prime and we have felt great sadness – but not today.
‘She is an old girl. She’s done her duty for 30 years.’
He added: ‘There’s a special spirit about this ship.
‘That York spirit will live on even if she’s no longer with us. The Type 45s have a tough act to follow.’
HMS York steamed an astonishing 750,000 miles around the globe since she was commissioned in 1985.
She embarked on 16 major deployments – including the Iraq invasion in 2003.
In 2006, she was called in to pluck British citizens from Beirut after war broke out between Israel and Lebanon.
Just last year, she delivered medical aid and rescued refugees from Benghazi in Gaddafi’s war-torn Libya.
Commander Rex Cox said: ‘Today is a special day and, understandably, one tinged with emotion as we say goodbye to this valiant lady of the sea.
‘HMS York has done her bit for Queen and country. It’s now time to say goodbye.
‘We shall miss her, but rather than being sad we must look back at her achievements and celebrate her 27 years.’
Addressing his men and women on the jetty, Cdr Cox added: ‘There’s no doubt York has been a great ship.
‘However, it’s her people that have made her what she is. You are without a doubt the most fantastic ship’s company that anyone could have had the privilege to have served with.’
The ship’s sponsor Lady Gosling, who launched York on the Tyne on June 21, 1982, and followed her progress around the globe, also paid tribute with a speech which unfortunately couldn’t be heard by most of the guests due to a microphone fault.
She said: ‘In 1982, looking up at the magnificent sleek bows of HMS York was an awesome sight.
‘As she launched, she slid gracefully into the water. My goddaughter was born – all 5,200 tonnes of her.’
She added: ‘I feel as though I am losing an amazing friend and family member. It is a sad event but we should celebrate her success as a fine ship.’
The occasion provided an opportunity for some ex-Yorkies to meet up and recount tales of life on board.
Kev Dennis served as a Leading Hand weapons engineer mechanic aboard York from 1986 to 1989.
He said: ‘I’m not sure it’s such a sad day – it’s a celebration. The best part about it for me is to come back to Portsmouth and meet people I’ve not seen for 20-odd years.’