The Royal Naval warship HMS Campbeltown sailed for the final time into her home port in Plymouth (Thursday 31st March) cheered by a crowd of well-wishers before leaving the fleet after 22 years service worldwide.
The Type 22 frigate flew a very long de-commissioning pennant as she sailed from Plymouth Sound into HM Naval Base Devonport to mark her final entry under the White Ensign before decommissioning next month.
As the ship sailed through Plymouth Sound she was accompanied by the small craft HMS Raider from Bristol University’s student Royal Navy Unit and exchanged a gun salute with the Royal Citadel fort on Plymouth Hoe while tugs heralded her arrival with a water canon spray high into the air.
The final entry into Devonport was a moving and reflective moment for serving and former members of the crew of HMS Campbeltown especially because of a proud history.
The ship’s commanding officer Commander Keri Harris said: “We have been working up to this inevitable moment for several months now and have been saying our farewells in France, the scene of her predecessor’s wartime heroics and our affiliated town of Campbeltown and Liverpool where she as built and Falmouth. So, with all this build-up it was always going to be an emotional time and it has proved to be a sad and proud time combined.
“I roused my ship’s company by telling they were a great team and deserved to show what they could do operationally, but we understand why we could not deploy as programmed and as we had trained intensively for. The situation has been forced by the financial strictures the government and country finds itself in.
“So it has been with disappointment and sadness that we enter Devonport for the final time. Now we will be broken up as a team, which is a hard thing to do. I wish my ship’s comany all well in their careers in the Royal Navy. However, Devonport as a naval base will continue to support the fleet, there is plenty of work here to do to keep the frigates and amphibious task group operational.”
Chief Petty Officer Paul Bennett, of Plymouth said: “These last few weeks have been one of the highlights of my career on board, despite the circumstance. I have been proud of the ship and my colleagues and moved to see how well respected we are in Campbeltown, Plymouth, Liverpool, St Nazaire in France and Falmouth – very moving.’’
Andrew Anderson travelled with his partner Janis Harper from Edinburgh to see his daughter Able Seaman communications specialist Clare Mcelroy mark her 21st birthday as the ship ended its career. He said: “It is a strange mixture of events and emotions. You are only 21 once and a ship only retires once. I am proud of Clare and her ship.”
The ship’s return marks the start of a number of key decommissioning activities including an official decommissioning ceremony on Thursday 7 April.
News of HMS Campbeltown’s decommissioning came in October last year, as she was preparing to deploy for counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. The ship has spent the ensuing months training future pilots, navigators, submariners, warfare officers and officer cadets from Britannia Royal Naval College, while contributing to the security of home waters.
HMS Campbeltown has provided service to the Royal Navy employed on operations around the globe in times of conflict, and also contributing to anti-piracy, anti-narcotics and humanitarian operations and the protection of British Overseas Territories. The ship is one of the Royal Navy’s four Devonport-based Type 22 frigates which are being decommissioned under the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The name of HMS Campbeltown has a distinguished record of Royal Navy service, with honours for the Battle of the Atlantic 1941-1942 and Operation Chariot at St Nazaire 1942, often referred to as the greatest raid of all as it had the largest number of Victoria Cross medals awarded for a single operation. The ship’s last point of call before its return to Plymouth is St Nazaire which coincides with the greatest raid’s 69th anniversary.