HMS Liverpool’s Libyan heroes

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Prince Charles praises HMS Liverpool’s Libyan heroes 
22 March 2012

Libyan veteran HMS Liverpool hosted Prince Charles and the King of Norway – the final royal visitors to the ship in her 30-year history.

The two royals toured the destroyer in Bergen – which is Liverpool’s final foreign port of call before she sails into Portsmouth for the last time on Monday flying her decommissioning pennant.

Liverpool's Guard of Honour waits for Prince Charles' arrival in the Bergen rain

IN A month of memorable ‘finals’ for HMS Liverpool, this was one to live long in the memories.

The final royal visit aboard the veteran destroyer on her final stop in a foreign port on her final active duty.

Prince Charles and the King of Norway, Harald V, visited the heroine of last year’s Libyan campaign in a very wet Bergen, to chat with the 240-strong ship’s company about their recent experiences.

Having learned of their deeds – inter alia the ship’s main gun fired more than 200 rounds in support of the NATO and UN mission supporting the Libyan people – first hand from the men and women who were there, the heir to the British throne conceded he now realised how “hairy” things had been for HMS Liverpool.

Prince Charles told the assembled members of the ship’s company: “It’s taken me some time to discover what you were up to out there – and how you were being fired at. It seems a great deal more hairy than we imagined.”

Liverpool’s final act in a career spanning 30 years has been to support HMS Illustrious and Bulwark in winter war games in the fjords. Exercise Cold Response saw 16,000 personnel from a dozen nations, including hosts Norway, and warships from half a dozen navies, play out complex manoeuvres on sea and land over ten days, practising the art of putting a sizeable amphibious force ashore in the harshest environment imaginable.

The destroyer pauses in the fjords during Cold Response

With Cold Response duties done, the destroyer made for Norway’s second city – infamous for its rain, and it did not disappoint – for a three-day stop, which coincided with an official visit to the country by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

As well as visiting Liverpool, Prince Charles and King Harald toured MV Brennholm to see the work the Institute for Marine Research is doing to encourage sustainable fishing, not least replenishing severely-depleted cod stocks.

As for HMS Liverpool, she’s makes her final entry to Portsmouth Harbour as a serving warship on Monday morning, flying a long, thin decommissioning pennant to commemorate her lengthy service. In doing so, she will add the last of 921,700 nautical miles to the odometer.

Built by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead, the ship – nicknamed the Crazy Red Chicken thanks to the distinctive Liver bird badge on her funnel – was launched in 1980. After an accelerated trials period she sailed for the South Atlantic in June 1982. Though she did not see active service in the Falklands conflict she remained on station for the next six months.

She did, however, serve as escort for HMS Ark Royal during the carrier’s participation in the 2003 campaign in Iraq and, last year off Libya, became the first British warship since the Falklands conflict to be deliberately targeted by an enemy.

Since returning from Libya in November Liverpool and her 260 crew have shadowed a Russian task group in the Atlantic, seeing it safely past UK waters into the North Sea.

That was followed by the destroyer’s last visit to her namesake city; her sailors marched through its street to acclaim and applause for the final time.

“In the 18 months since I assumed command, HMS Liverpool and her ship’s company have achieved some of the highest accolades a Royal Navy warship could hope for,” said the destroyer’s final Commanding Officer, Cdr Colin Williams.

“We have grown and faced challenges together, from operations off Libya to exercises in Norway, including sea training, high seas firings and escorting a Russian task group. We have achieved a great deal in a short time, and continued the long-standing, hard-working tradition of the Type 42 destroyer. 

“Every ship has a life span, and it is with great pride that we make way for the new Type 45 destroyers, and the enhanced capability they bring to today’s Royal Navy.

“HMS Liverpool has served her country and ship’s companies well to the end, and all should be rightly proud to have served in her. We bring her home as a ship at the top of her game, a fitting farewell to 30 years of dedicated service.”

His ship will be formally decommissioned at a ceremony in Portsmouth on March 30.

If you wish to see Liverpool’s final entry, she’s due to pass Round Tower at 10.10am on Monday.

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