Thursday, January 27, 2011

Final entry to Plymouth for proud Chatham

WITH a flash of fire from her ceremonial gun, HMS Chatham exchanges formalities with Plymouth’ Royal Citadel for the final time.
3rd Street Promenade

Tugs provide their traditional send-off as the youngest of Britain’s last four Type 22 frigates becomes the first to pay off in the wake off October’s defence cuts.
The 20-year-old warship made her last entry into Plymouth yesterday afternoon, watched by a few score well-wishers on the Devonshire city’s seafront who braved bitter conditions to witness the sad occasion.
The final entry – which saw the frigate uphold the RN custom of trailing a long, narrow decommissioning pennant – is the latest act in Chatham’ paying-off process.

She’s already said her goodbyes to the city of her birth, Newcastle – earlier this month the frigate spent four days in North Shields, a few miles along the Tyne from the Swan Hunter yard where Chatham was built from 1986-89, before joining the Fleet the following year.
Next comes a decommissioning ceremony in Devonport Naval Base on February 8.
The final chapter of the proud Chatham story comes on Saturday February 12 when ties with her namesake town in Kent are officially severed.
Just three months after the ship herself paid a final visit to the Medway, more than 60 members of her company will be in Chatham to say their farewells.
They will close the book on an affiliation going back to the late 1980s when they parade through the streets of Kent, exercising their right to the Freedom of the Borough of Medway for the final time.
The freedom parade in Kent – with bayonets fixed and colours flying, all in time to the drum beat of the Royal Marines Band from HMS Collingwood – will begin in Chatham High Street at 11.30am and end at the Medway Council buildings, where officials will host a reception for the sailors.
“Although the day will be tinged with sadness, HMS Chatham has enjoyed more than 20 years of friendship and support from the local population and I’m certain that many happy memories of this special bond will remain long after the ship has gone,” said Cdr Simon Huntingdon, the frigate’s final Commanding Officer.
“HMS Chatham will be sadly missed – over the past 20 years she has had a very successful life. As her final commanding officer, she has a special place in my heart.”
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