ACCORDING to her crew she was a ‘building site' just months ago – but HMS Kent is gleaming and ready to serve once again.
The Type 23 frigate formally rejoined the Royal Navy’s fleet yesterday following a sun-drenched rededication ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base.
It came after the submarine-hunter returned home to Portsmouth in August, alongside HMS Defender, after 18 months of refit works at Devonport in Plymouth.
Now bolstered with new command and missile systems, the warship is completing sea trials before embarking on a Nato deployment next year.
HMS Kent’s commanding officer, Andrew Brown, said Friday's celebration was ‘poignant’ – uniting the ship’s company, their loved ones and dignitaries.
‘This a momentous moment for the ship’s company and is the culmination of a lot of hard work,’ he said.
‘The transformation has been huge, internally and externally, and what we see now was a building site as little as six or seven months ago.
‘In terms of military capability and what [HMS Kent] can deliver, she is at the cutting-edge.’
Beginning with an inspection of the guard by Philip Sydney, the lord lieutenant of Kent, the ceremony featured a presentation of long service and good conduct medals.
Among those honoured was HMS Kent’s executive warrant officer, Richard ‘Reggie’ Slaughter, from Fareham, who was awarded with a clasp for surpassing 25 years of service in the Royal Navy.
Having served on 10 ships during that time – including HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal – he said the moment was one of ‘enormous pride’.
‘Thank you to the Royal Navy for allowing me to serve for 25 years,’ he said.
‘But more importantly, my family deserve recognition for the sacrifices they have made over the past 27 years.’
Mr Slaughter’s wife, Tracy, said she was ‘extremely proud’.
On HMS Kent’s refit, her husband added: ‘It’s like putting a Ford Escort in for an MOT and coming out with a Lamborghini engine.
‘[HMS Kent]’s better than she’s ever been’.