The last act in the proud career of HMS Liverpool was played out today under brilliant sunshine as the ship was formally decommissioned after 30 years’ service.
The 200 guests and 240-strong ship’s company of the heroine of the Libya campaign were told that their deeds and accomplishments would “endure and live on”
AB(Sea) Anthony Clark stands on the ship's brow having lowered and folded the White Ensign for the last time. Pictures: LA(Phot) Abbie Herron, FRPU East
TO THE strains of Sunset drifting across a serene Portsmouth Harbour, the White Ensign was lowered for the last time. And the Union Jack. So too the Fleet Efficiency Award as Britain’s best destroyer.
And thus did HMS Liverpool become simply Liverpool.
Thirty years of proud and honourable service by the veteran destroyer came to an end on a glorious spring morning as she was formally decommissioned in the shadow of Semaphore Tower.
Some 200 relatives of crew, plus friends, former members of the ship’s company, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool Cllr Frank Prendergast, Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery and a sizeable number of the 19 officers who have commanded the ship since 1981 gathered at South Railway Jetty to show their support.
The Second Sea Lord chats with the Guard of Honour
They were treated to music from the Band of HM Royal Marines School of Music, impromptu flypasts from Coastguard, RAF Search and Rescue and Fleet Air Arm helicopters, and even a blast from the fire hose of a tug which was working with the Gosport ferry in the harbour.
The ship’s chaplain, the Rev Charles Bruzon, led guests and 240-strong ship’s company through the last formal act of the destroyer’s career (she made her final entry to Portsmouth, flying a long decommissioning pennant, on Monday).
Despite being in service for three decades, it was in the final year of her life that Liverpool truly made her mark; her seven-month mission in support of the free peoples of Libya last year earned her international acclaim – and played no small part in the downfall of Colonel Gaddafi.
An emotional Cdr Colin Williams, Liverpool's final Commanding Officer, holds the ship's White Ensign
“What this last ship’s company achieved off Libya will endure and live on,” Rev Bruzon assured those gathered on the jetty.
He said Liverpool’s paying off was “almost the end of a human life. But all of us will treasure the memories of good times, camaraderie and accomplishments.
“Hold you heads high and be filled with pride.”
It fell to 39-year-old AB Anthony Clark to lower the Navy’s famous standard for the final time, fold it, then present it to his Commanding Officer Cdr Colin Williams.
Liverpool is the junior rating’s last ship so “to haul down the Ensign was a great honour, but also hugely poignant”.
Such feelings were echoed by Cdr Williams, who conceded that his “lower lip was trembling” as his flag was lowered.
The ship's company formed up in front of their ship on South Railway Jetty on a wonderful spring morning by the Solent
“This is a sad day – not something you would want to happen, but every ship has a life span and 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.
“Liverpool is the last of the ‘classic’ 42s and is ready in all respects to hand the baton of air defence on to the new, more capable Type 45 destroyers.
“The camaraderie and esprit de corps that has been generated will live on and be the enduring legacy.
“HMS Liverpool remains the embodiment of all that a destroyer can be and has upheld the finest traditions, standards and fighting prowess of the Royal Navy.”