Thursday, June 23, 2011

The bell tolls for Cumberland as she pays off

WITH dark clouds looming, the White Ensign is lowered for the final time on HMS Cumberland as the third of four frigates axed under the Defence Review pays off.
The ship’s bell resounded three times before sailors hauled down the Royal Navy’s standard on the penultimate Type 22 frigate with the solemn tones of the Band of HM Royal Marines echoing around Devonport Naval Base.
Around 100 guests, families and friends of the Fighting Sausage, and crew members past and present were invited to attend the poignant last act in Cumberland’s proud career.

The ship, and her three sisters – Campbeltown, Chatham and Cornwall – were all axed under last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Cumberland’s most recent duty – a mission which reverberated around the world – was to rescue civilians caught up in the Libyan Civil War, plucking them from danger in Benghazi just a matter of weeks ago.
The frigate then remained on station off Libya to support the international effort bringing pressure to bear on the Gaddafi regime, until finally being relieved to pay off.
It fell to the ship’s final commanding officer, Capt Steve Dainton, to give an emotional valedictory.
“This is a momentous day in the life of HMS Cumberland,” Capt Dainton told guests and his ship’s company.
“It is one of mixed emotions with poignancy and celebration about the long gone and more recent past combined with optimism for the future.
“It is very sad to see a ship leave active service earlier than we expected and to see the final lowering of the Royal Navy ensign. But it was privilege to share this event with the friends and families of HMS Cumberland.”
Capt Dainton told his sailors they were the finest crew he had the privilege to command – and that he would never forget the relieved and grateful expressions of families evacuated from Libya.
That final deployment, in harm’s way, meant that Cumberland returned home to Devonport much later than originally planned when she sailed east of Suez last year.
So Capt Dainton took the opportunity again to thank the families of his men and women for the enduring support and understanding.
He continued: “HMS Cumberland has always been remembered as a friendly ship and this made her a ‘family ship’. So it is very fitting to have so many of our families here and friends from her past and present to mark such a significant occasion and say farewell to their ship.
“The families of the ship’s company have been very supportive over the years and I think it is harder for them to cope with us going away than us. I therefore, thank them with all my heart."
After the ceremony alongside the Type 22 frigate, the ship’s decommissioning cake, made by HMS Raleigh catering school, was ceremonially cut by the sailor who has served for the longest on board (nine years) AB Hayley Kirby, while a glass of bubbly was raised as a toast to the ship and crews.
Of a class of ship which has served its nation redoubtably since the end of the 1970s and seen action in the Falklands and two Gulf wars, only HMS Cornwall remains; she pays off later this summer.


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