BATHED in glorious sunshine, the sailors from HMS Liverpool said a solemn farewell to their ship at Portsmouth Naval Base yesterday.
In an emotional decommissioning event full of pomp and ceremony, the Type 42’s illustrious 30-year career in the Royal Navy was brought to a dignified end.
The Second Sea Lord Vice-Admiral Charles Montgomery inspected the guard before an hour-long farewell of prayers and hymns.
Then came Liverpool’s final moments in the navy as her White Ensign was lowered for the last time.
The warship was paid off just six months after she triumphantly returned from action off the coast of Libya where she was instrumental in bringing down Colonel Gaddafi’s murderous regime.
Liverpool’s commanding officer, Commander Colin Williams, called it an ‘emotional day’.
He said: ‘‘My lower lip was wobbling quite a bit towards the end. The sailors did an amazing job – saying goodbye to a ship is not a job anyone wants to have to do but they did it very well.’
Able Seaman Anthony Clark, 39, of Eastney, was in charge of delivering the neatly-folded White Ensign to Cdr Williams in the last symbolic act of the ship’s life in the fleet.
He said: ‘It’s a massive honour for me as she’s my last ship in the Royal Navy. I’m due to leave the navy in December.’
Around 200 guests watched the ceremony, including former Liverpool shipmates Gary Neligan, 48, of Fareham, and Nigel Haybittle, 47, of Gosport, who served in her in 1994.
‘It’s so all very sad,’ said Nigel.
Gary added: ‘We had some really good times on her. It’s sad to see all the Type 42s going but they are old ships now.’
Families of the ship’s company also turned out to offer a big round of applause as the sailors marched off.
Wendy Teahan, 40, who watched her husband Petty Officer Donald Teahan, 41, with their children Sophie, nine, and Dominic, six, said: ‘I feel hugely proud of him. I think he does feel a bit sad about it all. It was a tough time for us when he was in Libya last year but now he’s back and he’s going on to a job at HMS Collingwood so we’ll have a lot more family time.’