FOR 43 years she replenished the fuel tanks of Royal Navy warships, embarked on sea rescues and steadfastly helped humanitarian missions across the globe.
But for RFA Gold Rover today marked the beginning of the end – as she left Portsmouth for Turkey to be scrapped.
Crowds gathered atop the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth to watch the tanker leave the city one last time, days after her sister ship RFA Black Rover embarked on the same journey.
Bryan Girling served on Gold Rover as a chief engineer until he retired from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, overseeing a 20-strong crew.
‘Gold Rover’s a ship dear to my heart and it's a sad day to see her go,’ the 62-year-old said.
‘Just before I left the ship in Simonstown in South Africa in May 2015, the ship kept a handwritten logbook with documents detailing the times and dates personnel would get on and off.
‘I calculated I motored 129,000 miles on my 10 trips on that ship.
‘Bearing in mind it’s 8,000 miles to the Falkland Islands from the UK – a trip I’ve made many times – 129,000 miles on one ship is quite an achievement.’
Accepted into service in 1974, Gold Rover's time in the RFA officially ended in March, 2017.
Her sale to Turkey alongside Black Rover is part of a £1.5million deal struck by the Ministry of Defence.
Among other missions her career saw her carry out evacuation duties in Cyprus and Liberia in 1974 and 1996, help with flood relief in Jamaica in 1986, and bust £60m of cocaine with HMS Argyll in 2006.
Richard Johnson, who watched her set sail today, completed duties on the ship and said its company was ‘brilliant’.
‘My job was filling in the various details when personnel came up off the quayside on to the ship,' the 72-year-old said.
‘They’d report to me and from that I’d carry out the duties that needed to be done, including some on deck.’
He added: ‘Gold Rover and Black Rover were lovely ships and they were nicely fitted out inside.
‘At the time I took that for granted, but now I look back and I could cry.
‘The RFA people knew what they were doing and the crews couldn't have been better.’
RFA Gold Rover was the last of the Rover Class small single hull fleet tankers and made way for the double-hulled RFA Tidespring and her three sisters – Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce.