Crowds lined the streets to bid farewell to their adopted Royal Navy submarine and crew today as they marched through the centre of Torquay led by the HM Band of the Royal Marines.
Hundreds of cheering and clapping shoppers, workers and residents applauded the crew of HMS Torbay marching for the final time through the town as they handed back their traditional civic privileges after the vessel left service at her decommissioning service last week.
The sailors and officers of the nuclear-powered attack submarine handed back the Honorary Freedom Scroll of Torbay (presented to them by Mayor Gordon Oliver in 2015), at a civic and military ceremony at Torquay Town Hall. The submariners presented the steel name plate bearing the vessel’s name and her bell to the council as a keepsake.
After 32 years’ service the submarine ceremonially left operational service at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth to eventually be replaced by one of the new Astute Class of advanced attack submarines.
Commander Dan Knight, HMS Torbay commanding officer, said: “As part of HMS Torbay’s decommissioning activities, the time has come to exercise our freedom of the Borough of Torbay for one last time and return the scroll granting that Freedom to Torbay Council.
“This marks the last occasion that HMS Torbay’s ship’s company will be together as a crew. It is most fitting that we take this opportunity to say thankyou to the borough for the long-standing support they have provided to HMS Torbay during her 30 years of frontline operational service to the nation.”
Stephen Weston, HMS Torbay sonar specialist, said after the march: “It’s not very often we march through towns and see the people who support us through the affiliations. It was really good to see such enthusiasm for the submarine service. For obvious reasons we can’t say much about what we do, but it’s still rewarding to see this appreciation.’’
Engineering Technician (weapons) Jack Pastance, 22, who will leave his submarine to begin a promotion course, said: “It was a very proud occasion. I felt honoured to have so many people cheering us all as we marched through the town.
“I’ve been on Torbay for two and a half years and this was one of the best moments. It’s also a bit sad because we won’t be a ship’s company any more. She’s a fantastic ‘boat’ and a fantastic crew.’’
Torbay resident Brian Rooke cheered the sailors. The former 42Commando Royal Marine said: “They’ve done a really good job for the country and deserve our support. I wanted to see them parade here for the last time. It’s such a shame they won’t be back.’’
Fellow resident Debbie Sawyer said: “I feel proud to be here. It’s a fitting occasion. It’s right we should thank them for what they are doing for our country in this way. They’ve been a big asset to Torquay.’’
Mayor Oliver said: “The Honorary Freedom of Torbay gave the submarine’s crew the right and honour to march through the borough bearing arms. Granted under the Honorary Freedom of Boroughs Act 1885, the title is being returned as the submarine is decommissioned.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the people of Torbay to say a big thank you to all of the commanding officers and crews for defending us and keeping us free. We are very grateful to them for the service that they have provided not only for Torbay, but this country and we will welcome them.”
HMS Torbay facts: Total distance travelled in 32 years: 705,600 miles, 3,162.5 days spent at sea, 2,415 days under water, approximately 70 port visits (not including base port visits), number of crew who have served on board ~ 2,500, basic submarine qualifications completed ~ 1,850, meals eaten at sea ~ 379,440, 7 Perisher (submarine command course) courses hosted, length overall 85.4m, breadth 9.83m, draught 9.5m, displacement 4,730t surfaced, 5,208t dived, armament five 21-inch torpedo tubes and a crew of complement 96.