Proud era ends as the Navy’s last Type 42 destroyer, HMS Edinburgh, bows out

In a ceremony charged with emotion, the Royal Navy’s last Type 42 destroyer, HMS Edinburgh, formally left the Service this morning, bringing four decades of history to an end. The White Ensign was lowered for the last time on the 28-year-old warship during a decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth Naval Base.

No more does the White Ensign fly over a Type 42 destroyer as the Royal Navy’s standard was lowered on the last of the class today, HMS Edinburgh.

At 11.36am on the sixth day of June 2013, Chief Petty Officer Christopher Lindop hauled down the flag as the strains of Sunset from the Band of HM Royal Marines were carried by the stiff spring breeze along Victory Jetty in Portsmouth Naval Base.

And thus did HMS Edinburgh become plain Edinburgh and the curtain fell on the Royal Navy’s Type 42 era as the last of the 14 ships in the class was decommissioned on a glorious, cloudless day in the Solent.

Some 250 guests – families of the ship’s company, ex-42 crew, former Edinburgers, affiliates, 15 of her 17 former commanding officers and the destroyer’s sponsor, Lady Heseltine, who received the folded ensign from CPO Lindop – attended the 50-minute service.

With the ship herself gleaming in the June sunshine and belying her 28 years, first the Lynx which had supported her final deployment to the Falklands, then a sleek Sea Fury of the Royal Navy Historic Flight, and finally a RAF Typhoon, roared overhead in appreciation of the service the Fortress of the Sea has given the nation since 1985.

“These are the final moments of HMS Edinburgh and the final moments of the Type 42 – a class which has served the Navy and the nation with distinction,”

the destroyer’s Commanding Officer Cdr Nick Borbone told all present.

“This is truly the end of an era.

“There is no doubt that she is a great ship but it is the people who have made her. So thank you to all of you.”

Built as the Fleet’s shield against air attack – protecting task forces with their Sea Dart missiles, which they did to effect in the Falklands and Gulf War – the Type 42 destroyers have evolved into the Navy’s workhorses, patrolling the Seven Seas as and when required by Whitehall.

Perhaps as many as 30,000 men and women have served in Type 42s since the first, HMS Sheffield, entered service in the mid-70s.

Some made the ultimate sacrifice: 20 men were killed when Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile in the Falkands; three weeks later, HMS Coventry was bombed and sunk with the loss of 21 souls after a ferocious day of battle with the Argentine Air Force.

Such actions – and many others: HMS Gloucester intercepted an Iraqi missile bound for a US battleship in the Gulf, HMS Liverpool repeatedly (and accurately) pounded pro-Government forces in Libya in 2011 – have earned the class the proud nickname: The Fighting 42s.

With the torch handed firmly on to the next generation of destroyers, the Type 45s, and with the Type 42s increasingly aged (some of the machinery aboard dates back to the 1950s), the moment had come to retire the last of the old breed.

Capt Martin Ladd, Edinburgh’s first Commanding Officer back in 1985-86 – and proudly wearing an HMS Edinburgh tie – could not help but shed a tear as he admired his old ship for the last time.

“She doesn’t look very much different now than she did when I stepped off her 27 years ago. She looks so fine – it is difficult to believe that this is her final ceremony.

“These ships have done their job extremely well – they were key ships. But technology moves on. The life cycle of the Navy moves on. Edinburgh ploughs away gracefully, leaving behind those who follow her.”

Over the next six weeks – the last day in Edinburgh’s life will be July 19 – the ship will be prepared for disposal while her ship’s company dispersed.

LStd Gemma Raybold will be heading to a Type 45 next.

“Some people are sad, some people want to move on. For me it’s sad because everyone on board bonds so well. We know each other on first-name terms.

“But Edinburgh cannot go on forever. She wants to go to bed now, bless her.”

There is no doubt that she is a great ship but it is the people who have made her. So thank you to all of you.

Cdr Nick Borbone RN