THE captain of a veteran warship has spoken of his sadness as he sailed her home for the last time.
HMS Gloucester – which holds a missile firing record from the first Gulf War – arrived in Portsmouth yesterday, ending her last journey ahead of her official decommissioning ceremony next month.
The end of service for the 29-year-old Type 42 destroyer is part of the Royal Navy’s programme to phase out the ageing Type 42s to make way for the high-tech Type 45 destroyers.
HMS Gloucester’s captain, Commander David George, said: ‘HMS Gloucester came up harbour with her decommissioning pennant billowing behind us and all my ship’s company on the upper deck in their best uniforms.
‘It was a real sad occasion and one we’ve been dreading to some extent, but we’ve taken it with pride.’
Cdr George said it was ‘an end of an era’ adding: ‘The Type 42s have been the backbone of the fleet for the last 30 years. I served in Exeter in 1983 as my first ship, which was a brand new destroyer, all sparkling, clean and sophisticated, and very slowly we have seen ourselves overtaken by these Type 45s and the new ships that are coming online.
‘They are state-of-the-art in terms of sophistication now, so it’s time for us to bow out with dignity and pride and allow the big boys to come in.’
The warship helped evacuate British nationals during the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 and in 2010 she made a £4m drug bust by intercepting cocaine on board the yacht Tortuga heading for the Falkland Islands. Warrant officer Gavin Dunkey, of Gale Moor Avenue, Gosport, said: ‘It is a very sad day.
‘She’s a unique ship and has always had a fantastic reputation within the naval fleet – it doesn’t matter who joins, they all have the same feelings of emotional attachment to the old girl.’