Last in a line of ships that have served us so well

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Driving rain didn’t make it the easiest way to mark the end of an era. But those who made the trip to the Round Tower to see off HMS Edinburgh yesterday were never likely to be put off by bad weather conditions.

Around 200 people gathered to say goodbye as she sailed from Portsmouth for the final time. Because it wasn’t just farewell to Edinburgh, but an historic moment as she is the last Type 42 destroyer to go on operations for the Royal Navy.

Edinburgh is heading for a six-month deployment which will take in the Falkland Islands, so the crew will need to get used to the wet and the wind.

Some of those huddled on the Round Tower were saying emotional farewells to loved ones, including Alan Jenkins, proudly watching his 25-year-old son David deploy for the first time.

But others may have been there because of what Edinburgh’s departure represents. The 29-year-old destroyer is the last in a line of Type 42s that have served the navy and their country so well.

As the ship’s captain, Commander Nick Borbone, says, the Type 42s have established a ‘fine tradition’ in their long years of service.

When HMS York is decommissioned at Portsmouth Naval Base on Thursday, HMS Edinburgh will be the only Type 42 left on active duty.

And that line will come to an end when she arrives back in Portsmouth harbour in March 2013 and is retired from service.

Their number includes HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry, both tragically sunk in the Falklands conflict of 1982, and HMS Glasgow, HMS Cardiff and HMS Exeter who helped to liberate the islands from Argentinian invaders.

But as we pause for a nostalgic look back at the fine contribution of the Type 42s, we must remember that the modern navy has to keep updating to ensure it is at the technological forefront.

We may be losing a much-loved class of destroyer, but six new £1bn Type 45 destroyers are claimed to be the world’s most-advanced warships.

We look forward to them serving with the same distinction as the Type 42s.