Dragons come in all shapes and sizes. And for his last day in the job, the commanding officer of HMS Dragon got to experience a variety of them.
Captain Rex Cox was given a memorable send-off by his ship’s company as they arranged for him to leave the Type 45 destroyer in style.
Firstly piped off the ship, he was taken to a waiting bus parked on the jetty – and it was the HMS Dragon bus, part of the First Bus fleet which are all named after a Portsmouth ship.
For the next part of the surprise, the bus drove Capt Cox and his officers to No2 basin, where a dragon boat waited low in the water.
The captain was seated in the middle and rowed out of the base for the last time in a fitting tribute to his time in command.
Capt Cox said: ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off.
We look to find a unique way to send our captains off in style and we thought the dragon boat, with our name Dragon, was a unique way to do it
‘As Dragon enters the next phase of her life it has been an honour and a privilege for me to command her and I wish her and her ship’s company all the best for the future.
‘It’s the people in Dragon that make her what she is and we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our friends and families.’
The dragon boat left the basin and entered the harbour, where it passed HMS Dragon alongside.
Dragon’s ship’s company lined up on the flight deck to give three final cheers and gleefully watch the officers battle against a three-knot tide.
Lt Cdr Joe Allfree, who now becomes the senior naval officer on board Dragon, said: ‘We were very pleased to have the dragon boat available to use to row the captain ashore in a very non-traditional but fun way.
‘There’s a long history of this. We look to find a unique way to send our captains off in style and we thought the dragon boat, with our name Dragon, was a unique way to do it. It’s never been done before.
‘It was a little bit nerve-wracking being that close to the water and it was a little bit wobbly, but we got there in the end and nobody got too wet.’
Sightseers were given a rare treat as the harbour tour boat passed the unusual dragon boat crew making their way along the harbour.
They eventually came ashore by HMS Warrior.
Roger Irwin is the managing director of Dragon Boat Events, which supplied the boat and runs events such as the Portsmouth Rotary Club’s Dragon Boat Festival on October 3 and 4.
Mr Irwin said: ‘This came about because the ship’s executive officer contacted us and the link between HMS Dragon and our dragon boats was obvious.
‘I thought the standard was pretty good – they would have passed muster as a team at one of our events.
‘We had high expectations and they exceeded our expectations.’