A huge joyous crowd of families and friends welcomed HMS Cornwall home to Plymouth, today (26th April) after a successful six-month counter-piracy deployment east of Suez.
More than 900 banner-waving people crowded on to the jetty as HMS Cornwall entered HM Naval Base, Devonport, for the final time as an operational warship before being decommissioned later this year. The ship was heralded by Plymouth Pipe Band, a fly-past of the ship’s Lynx helicopter and the fire-fighting tugs firing their high pressures hoses high into the air. The ship also flew its lengthy decommissioning pennant and fired an 11-shot salute on its ceremonial gun passing Plymouth Hoe.
As the frigate drew along the jetty the waiting crowd cheered, tugging on the heart strings of some usually unemotional sailors.
Commander David Wilkinson, the ship’s commanding officer, said: “It has been a very successful deployment. We have arrested pirates and ensured the safe passage of millions of pounds-worth of cargo to the west through the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. The icing on the cake of this tremendous occasion was the fantastic welcome by more than 900 families on the jetty. The support of the families is essential to us completing our operations.’’
The ship is the fourth and final ship of the Type 22 class – HMS Chatham, HMS Campbelton and HMS Cumberland – to be decommissioned this year as part of the MOD Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Cdr Wilkinson said: “It is always sad for any sea-going naval officer to see a ship leave service and “HMS Cornwall is a most beautiful and capable ship. But she is one of the oldest class of ships and it is time for the pod lady to retire. It is also always an emotional time for a ship’s company to arrive home after a long, hard and dangerous deployment. But this was an especially sad occasion as it is HMS Cornwall’s final entry into her base-port.
“These ships have proved themselves, especially HMS Cumberland and my ship, on challenging versatile patrols which proves not only the worth of such ships but also the Royal Navy’s value worldwide. I am very positive about the future of the Royal Navy and future provision of new frigates.”
Cdr Wilkinson was met on the jetty by his family from Southampton, his wife Pam (nurse) and son Samuel 12, and daughter Nieamh, 8. Mrs Wilkinson said: “It is fantastic for us all to have David back again. They have missed him for six months. Sam is now waiting for the school half term to surf and kayak with his dad.’’
HMS Cornwall deployed from the UK on 28th October last year to patrol the Gulf of Aden as the command ship for CTF 151 – the Counter Piracy Task Force of a multi-national naval partnership. The partnership promotes security, stability and prosperity across 2.5 million square miles of international waters in the Middle East, including some of the world’s most important shipping lanes – vital for the UK’s trade.
Commander David Wilkinson, the ship’s commanding officer, praised his crew: “They have been utterly professional in all that has been asked of them, but today’s homecoming is about reunion with our loved ones and recognising the support they have given us to keep us strong over the past six months.”
As well as being the task force command ship, the deployment has seen HMS Cornwall achieve the following:
• Hosted Pakistani counter piracy battle staff
• Freed 5 Yemeni fisherman and their Dhow
• Detained 23 suspected pirates
• Disrupted multiple piracy attacks
• Escorted vulnerable merchant vessels
• Provided medical assistance to 3 injured merchant seamen
• Conducted counter-piracy patrols in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean
• Supported the state visit of Her Majesty to Queen to Oman in Nov 10.
• Shared operational expertise with coalition partners including Pakistan, Jordan, UAE, Oman, Algeria
• Supported IDEX 2011 in Abu Dhabi
The ship’s decommissioning ceremony will follow later this summer, as will the ship’s Freedom of Truro parade HMS Cornwall is the sixth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name Cornwall since 1692.
HMS Cornwall at a glance: Complement of 253 people, including 25 officers, 61 senior rates,
164 junior ratings and 3 civilian staff. Vital statistics: length 48.1m, breadth14.8m, displacement 5,400 tonnes
And draught 6.4m. Armament: Harpoon Surface to Surface Missiles GWS 25 MOD 3 Seawolf Missile System
1x 4.5 Mk 8 gun, Goalkeeper CIWS, two 20mm guns. Helicopter capability: Two x Lynx Mk 3 or 8
Sea King, Sea Skua Anti-Surface Missiles (helicopter-launched) Stingray anti-submarine Torpedoes (helicopter launched). Built on the Clyde by Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd and was launched on 14 October 1985 by the late Diana, The Princess of Wales.