Wednesday, February 2, 2011

HMS Manchester says her farewells

THERE’S a last chance to see the Busy Bee in the North West from tomorrow as HMS Manchester pays her final visit before decommissioning.

The veteran destroyer, which has served her nation for nearly 30 years, pays off later this month in her home port of Portsmouth.
Before doing so, however, she is saying ‘thank you’ to her friends and affiliates across Manchester and Lancashire (aka God's Own County).
Low(ish) bridges over the Manchester Ship Canal and the Type 42 destroyer’s tall mast preclude the ship herself sailing into the heart of the northern metropolis.
Instead, the Busy Bee (she takes her nickname from the insects on her ship’s badge which, in turn, traces its history back to the city’s role in the industrial revolution) will berth at Liverpool’s Cruise Liner Terminal around 10am tomorrow with the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Cllr Mark Hackett,  aboard.

Waiting (fingers crossed) for D95 on the Mersey waterfront will be two of her ship’s company: Lt Cdr Dickie Underwood and Lt ‘JJ’ Hesketh who are cycling the 260 miles from Pompey to Liverpool in two days to raise money for the ship’s affiliated charity in Manchester, Broughton House, as well as for Help for Heroes.
Farewell events begin on Friday with a reception and capability demonstration on board for invited civic dignitaries, before a Beat the Retreat and Ceremonial Sunset performed by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Scotland which Liverpudlians will be able to observe from around 7.45pm from Princes Parade, next to the terminal.
On Saturday, the ship’s company head up the M62 to Manchester to exercise their Freedom of the City for the last time.
With bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying, the sailors will parade through the city centre.
The day’s ceremonial proceedings begin with a service at Manchester Cathedral at 10am, before the parade forms up outside to march through the city centre to the City Hall, arriving at around 12.30pm, when they will return the Freedom Scrolls to the Lord Mayor, who’ll then invite the sailors inside for a reception.
The parade will be accompanied by the Territorial Army Bands of the Lancashire Artillery and The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
With the Mancunians back on board their ship on Sunday, they open the gangway to visitors between mid-day and 5pm.
“It is with great pride that we are bringing HMS Manchester back to the Mersey for this final visit,” said Manchester’s final CO Cdr Rex Cox.
“This will be an extremely proud moment for us, though one tinged with a small amount of sadness too, and I know that my officers and crew intend to do HMS Manchester and the city proud.
“The ship has served the Royal Navy for 30 years and has a fine pedigree, including action in the Gulf. And, although she is decommissioning, this is a time to celebrate her sterling service over the decades.”
For those who don’t have the chance to catch Manchester in the North West this weekend, you can see her across the country – courtesy of a Channel 5 primetime documentary which begins on Monday February 7 at 9pm.
Royal Navy Caribbean Patrol follows the men and women of Manchester on the ship’s final deployment when they snared drug runners, cleared up in the wake of three hurricanes and paid the first visit to Cuba by a British warship in more than half a century.
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