Portsmouth welcomes HMS Manchester home for the final time

HMS Manchester
HMS Manchester
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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HMS Manchester has returned to Portsmouth for the final time after spending her last day at sea.

The Type 42 destroyer ended her 30-year career with a families day in the Solent.

The ship which served in the first Gulf war, bows out of service after clocking up almost 860,000 miles.

The ship’s commanding officer, Commander Rex Cox, took the ageing vessel through her paces today before giving the order to shut down her engines for the last time.

He said: ‘I’ve not decommissioned a ship before. It’s a very sad moment but although there is sadness we can look back with a lot of pride over her 30 year career.’

Cdr Cox joined the ship just over a year ago and took her on a successful deployment catching drug runners and delivering disaster relief in the Caribbean, which was filmed for a TV series currently shown every Monday night on Channel Five.

He said: ‘It has been a rollercoaster ride from the point I walked on. It’s been full on all the time and I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. The best part is that I’ve had the best ship’s company any captain could wish for and that’s what is important - it’s the people that make the ship and that spirit will live on with them wherever they go next.’

The ship, which sailed in flying her 243ft decommissioning pennant, is being retired as the new £1bn Type 45s are phased in to service.

Chief Petty Officer Craig ‘Cat’ Stephens, 31, was showing his son Aaron, seven, around the ship.

He said: ‘I joined the ship in March 2009. I was meant to be on here three months and here I am a year and a half later.

‘When I joined everyone said how lucky I was. Lots of people in the navy want to serve in Manchester and I’m very proud that I have. It’s sad to see her go she is a very special ship but she is showing her age so it’s right that she makes way for the new ships coming in.’