FAMILIES braved the driving rain to wave farewell to loved ones as HMS Edinburgh sailed from Portsmouth for the final time.
It was a historic moment as Edinburgh is the last Type 42 destroyer to go on operations in the Royal Navy after more than 30 years in service.
The warship got an early taste of South Atlantic-style howling winds and torrential rain as she departed for a six-month patrol which will take her to the Falkland Islands early next year.
Around 200 people huddled on the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth to watch her go.
Stephanie Finch, 25, wept as she said goodbye to her fiancé Able Seaman Ian Smith, 24, of Admiralty Quarter, Portsea.
She said: ‘We only got engaged two weeks ago.
‘We went on holiday to the Dominican Republic and he proposed, so our last holiday together before he went away became an engagement holiday. I’m going to miss him so much, but I’ve got to start saving up for the wedding and sorting all that out.’
Former soldier Alan Jenkins, 52, beamed with pride as he watched his son Able Seaman David Jenkins, 25, deploy for the first time.
He said: ‘He’s been in one year and two days and this is his first real deployment.
‘He’s really up for it and we are very proud of him.
‘The weather’s horrible but it should toughen him up.’
Edinburgh, which is nicknamed The Fortress of the Sea, will first head for sunnier climes to try to catch drug smugglers off West Africa.
She will then cross the South Atlantic to provide reassurance to UK territories and dependencies, before heading for hurricane relief duties and diplomatic visits in the Caribbean and the US.
She is due to make her final homecoming to Portsmouth in March next year.
Amanda Adams waved goodbye to her son Able Seaman William Adams, 20, of north Devon.
She said: ‘This is the second time he’s been away. He was with the ship when she did the same deployment last year. Seeing him go is a mixture of pride and sadness.
‘I’m wishing him love and kisses, I’ll be thinking of him and I hope he has fun.
‘Six months goes quite quickly, so we’re looking forward to having him back home soon enough.’
It’s the second time in two years Edinburgh has been sent on the Atlantic patrol and the 29-year-old destroyer has undergone maintenance ahead of setting sail.
The ship’s captain, Commander Nick Borbone, said: ‘HMS Edinburgh might be the last of the class but she remains a capable ship with a highly-trained and motivated ship’s company that is determined to preserve the fine tradition that the Type 42s have established in 30 years of service.’
End of an era for navy’s dependable old destroyers
THE Royal Navy’s Type 42 destroyers have served with distinction all over the world since the mid-1970s.
When HMS York is decommissioned at Portsmouth Naval Base on Thursday, HMS Edinburgh will be the only one left on active duty.
She will be retired from service once she returns to Portsmouth in March.
The ageing ships have been slowly phased out to be replaced with six new £1bn Type 45 destroyers which are claimed to be the world’s most-advanced warships.
The Type 42 guided-missile destroyers were designed in the 1960s and have been the core of the fleet’s anti-air defence capabilities for almost four decades.
In total, 14 vessels were constructed in three batches. Two further 42s were built for Argentina’s navy in the 1970s – before war broke out in the Falklands.
One of those ships, Hércules, still remains active in the Argentine navy.
The UK’s first-in-class, HMS Sheffield, was sunk during the Falklands conflict, as was fourth-in-class HMS Coventry. Despite this tragic setback, other 42s HMS Glasgow, HMS Cardiff, and HMS Exeter helped successfully liberate the invaded islands.
Other notable successes for Type 42s include operations during the First Gulf War by HMS Exeter, HMS Manchester, and HMS Gloucester.
In 1999, HMS Newcastle escorted the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible during the Kosovo war.
HMS York and HMS Liverpool took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both ships were also involved in operations off Libya last year.