Friday, May 6, 2011

Final civic honour for the Fighting G

THERE is the chance for the good folk of Gloucester to see the men and women who uphold the city’s name on the high seas for the last time tomorrow.
Sailors from HMS Gloucester will parade through the streets before a service celebrating the destroyer’s achievements over the past 25 years.
They will be joined in the civic ceremonies by local leaders, plus the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (the latter is the destroyer’s proud sponsor and has followed the warship’s progress avidly since she launched her at the now-defunct Vosper Thornycroft yard in Southampton in 1982).

The veteran warship returned from her final deployment – half a year in the South Atlantic and South America – at the end of March, since when the ship’s company have been preparing for the final acts in Gloucester’s life.
Yesterday the ship arrived in Avonmouth for a five-day visit to the West Country which sees friends and affiliates bussed down to the destroyer for a last look around (some 150 schoolchildren and Sea Cadets are expected aboard among others for guided tours).
Tomorrow the Fighting Gs – in an age when seemingly every HM ship is prefixed ‘Fighting’ or ‘Mighty’ (Fighting Clan, Fighting Sausage, Mighty Ark, Mighty O), the Gloucestermen and women trace their proud nickname back more than 70 years to the legendary WW2 cruiser lost off Crete – head 30 or so miles up the M5 to the namesake city.
At 9.30am they will form up at North Warehouse. Forty minutes later, led by the Band of HM Royal Marines, they will march to the Guildhall, where the Mayor will take the salute. The marchers will continue on to College Green and at 10.50 the Royal party will arrive to inspect the guard before taking the Royal Salute.
That should last until around 11.15 when everyone heads to the Cathedral for an hour-long service. Once it’s over, the sailors have been invited to King’s School for a reception.
It will be, says Cdr David George, the destroyer’s final commanding officer, “a fitting occasion to mark the end of HMS Gloucester’s long and faithful service – and it pinpoints the importance of our bond with the city.
“HMS Gloucester – just like the city – has an extremely illustrious history and throughout her life, this brave ship has been incredibly supported by the people of Gloucester – and Gloucestershire.”
There’s another month or so of saying farewells to affiliates and families before the ship makes her final entry to Portsmouth on June 20 and will be formally decommissioned on June 30.


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