Farewell to a ‘distinguished lady’

HMS YORK at sea off the coast of Beirut (Lebanon) in support of an International Maritime force against arms trafficking and smuggling in to the country of Lebanon. Picture by     LA(Phot) Dave Griffiths
HMS YORK at sea off the coast of Beirut (Lebanon) in support of an International Maritime force against arms trafficking and smuggling in to the country of Lebanon. Picture by LA(Phot) Dave Griffiths

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Today the navy says farewell to one of its workhorses. MICHAEL POWELL takes a look back at HMS York’s service to the nation.

IN a sterling 27 years of service to the nation, HMS York has clocked up enough miles to orbit planet Earth an astonishing 40 times.

That fact alone reveals just how much of a workhorse she has been for the Royal Navy.

The Portsmouth-based Type 42 destroyer has been involved in several major international incidents and has sailed to almost every corner of the world to fly the flag and protect Britain’s interests.

But now is time for the navy to say goodbye to one of its top performers.

In a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base this morning, sailors will salute York’s White Ensign for the final time.

Amid the pomp and ceremony, there are mixed emotions as the curtain falls on an illustrious career.

‘We shall miss her,’ reveals York’s current captain, Commander Rex Cox.

He adds: ‘However, rather than being sad we should look to her numerous achievements and celebrate her 27 years.’

Launched on the Tyne on June 20, 1982, York was the last of 14 Type 42s to be built in the UK. With a top speed of 34 knots, she was the fastest warship in the fleet.

After three years of sea trials and testing, she was commissioned in 1985 and her first deployment was to the Far East the following year.

The Middle East became York’s second home in the 1990s when she was deployed to the Gulf four times. In 2003, she rose to prominence when she chaperoned HMS Ark Royal during the invasion of Iraq.

One of her finest moments came three years later when she was called in to pluck British nationals out of Beirut after war broke out between Israel and Lebanon. York and her sister ship HMS Gloucester ferried hundreds of evacuees out of the danger zone to Cyprus.

In the twilight of her career, she was still making headlines last year when she delivered medical aid and rescued dozens of refugees from war-torn Libya.

Now the end has come, Cdr Rex reflects on what made this one warship such a success.

‘Throughout her life it has been the people – the members of her ship’s company – who have made HMS York what she is,’ he says.

‘As the final Commanding Officer of HMS York, I have the honour and privilege to ensure that we say goodbye to our great ship in style and in the finest traditions of the service.

‘She has given 27 years of distinguished service to the Royal Navy across the globe.

‘It is time to say farewell to a distinguished lady who has been both a home and a way of life to so many.’

York bows out, leaving sister ship HMS Edinburgh alone in carrying the flickering flame for the navy’s ageing class of Type 42 destroyers. She too decommissions when she returns from operations early next year.

The demise of the old guard has left commentators pondering the future of Britain’s maritime might.

The 12 Type 42s were meant to be replaced by the same number of super-powered Type 45 destroyers.

As costs spiralled, this was slashed to eight. Now only six of the new warships have been built at a cost of £1bn each.

The MoD insists the gap can be filled by working more closely with our allies.

But former sailor Mike Critchley, publisher of Warship World magazine, warns the fleet will become too stretched.

He says: ‘The Type 45 destroyers are more up to date but one ship can only be in one place at one time. We are now much decreased in terms of our worldwide capability.

‘HMS York has fulfilled a long life in the Royal Navy. It’s good that she was around to do so much in her time, but now we are not going to have enough vessels to deploy as we would wish.’

HMS York fact file

Builder: Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear

Laid down: January 18, 1980

Launched: June 20. 1982

Sponsor: Lady Gosling

Affiliated city: York

Commissioned: August 9, 1985

Decommissioned: September 27, 2012

Pennant number: D98

Motto: Bon Espoir (Good Hope)

Displacement: 5,200 tonnes

Length: 463ft

Beam: 50 ft

Propulsion: Two gas turbines producing 48,000 horsepower

Speed: 34 knots

Crew: 287

Armament: A maximum of 40 twin Sea Dart missiles, one 4.5in Mk 8 gun, two Phalanx Close-in weapon system

Aircraft carried: One Lynx helicopter armed with four anti-ship missiles and two anti-submarine torpedoes