The first reaction to the news that the Type 22 frigates in Portsmouth harbour are to be sold for scrap could easily be one of disappointment.
Certainly anyone who served in the ships – Chatham, Cumberland, Campbeltown, and Cornwall – no doubt feels a pang of sadness as their former homes will soon be no more, and that’s entirely understandable.
And one could feel disappointed that another part of naval heritage is being packed off to become razor blades, possibly seeing it as representative of the cuts that the navy has suffered in recent years.
But while those feelings are entirely justified, we would argue that the removal of the four frigates is actually a cause, if not for celebration, then at least not for sadness.
The reason is this. While we are united in believing that the stronger the senior service’s fleet the better, the decision has now been made to decommission those ships and that was never going to be reversed.
So now we have to look to the future, and having four rusting hulks in the harbour is not useful for the coming years.
Despite the correct focus on heritage in the dockyard which, as shown by today’s story about the Mary Rose Museum reaching 100,000 visitors in eight weeks, remains exceptionally popular, the fact remains we still have a working naval and passenger harbour.
We will have one, and we hope both supercarriers based in Portsmouth within the next few years, as well as the new fleet of T26 global combat ships. That’s on top of the increasing number of cruise ship visits and other passenger traffic to the area.
The Type 22s have been sitting in Rotten Row for too long, but they can’t sit there forever. While we mourn their passing, we look to the years ahead and to the ambitious plans to update the base and its surroundings.
Some ships, such as Ark Royal, hold a special place in the collective affection and would be worth preserving.
However, we cannot save every vessel, which is why this is the right decision.