HMS Clyde’s last drive home for Christmas

One of the great workhorses of the Royal Navy made her return to HM Naval Base Portsmouth today, after 12 years on patrol around the Falkland Islands and bringing her final voyage as a member of the Fleet to a close.

One of the great workhorses of the Royal Navy made her return to HM Naval Base Portsmouth today, after 12 years on patrol around the Falkland Islands and bringing her final voyage as a member of the Fleet to a close.

Almost as soon as the 40 members of HMS Clyde’s crew had greeted their families the ship was decommissioned from the Fleet with her service career now at an end.

She is being replaced as Falkland Islands patrol vessel by HMS Forth. She is making her way across the Atlantic Ocean and due to be at sea through Christmas and New Year.

After she arrives, she will begin her patrol of the Falkland Islands, offering assistance and reassurance to inhabitants, exploring the outer reaches of the archipelago, and also maintaining a presence in South Georgia as HMS Clyde has done with distinction since 2007.

Her final captain has been Lieutenant Commander Richard Skelton, his second spell on the ship, five years after being her Executive Officer.

He said: “HMS Clyde has been a very good ship, so reliable and she’s had to be – the South Atlantic’s not a forgiving place. She was designed for a particular task, to be the Falkland Islands patrol vessel, something which she has done without return to the UK and without major docking for 12 years. The ability to demonstrate Britain’s global reach and to provide support to the islanders is critical to what we do and is precisely what Defence is about.

It’s hugely bittersweet for us today, homecoming is always emotive; the separation from families is possibly the hardest part of the job, and the joy of seeing of them is brilliant. She’s been away from Portsmouth for just over 12 years, and to come back to families just before Christmas and decommission her on the same day makes it doubly poignant.

Lieutenant Commander Richard Skelton

The decommissioning ceremony was attended by about 200 guests including former Commanding Officers and HMS Clyde’s Lady Sponsor, Lady Dunt.

Some of the current crew have been with the ship for about nine months, but most for about six months – the standard tour length before handing over to the relief crew.

Having seen about 25 crew handovers over a dozen years, HMS Clyde will now be stripped of personal belongings and prepared for her handover to BAE Systems for the next phase of her life.

AB Reece Backshall, has been with HMS Clyde for the past seven months on his first deployment in the Royal Navy, including a port visit to Rio De Janeiro. He said: “It’s a small team so we’re close and everyone gets on with everyone else. It’s great to be back for Christmas, we were worried we weren’t going to make it but, luckily, we are back today as scheduled.

“It’s been a perfect first deployment; I thought I was just going to do six months in the Falklands, but it turns out we’re decommissioning the ship as well and I’ve got to visit other continents.”

HMS Clyde is the final Portsmouth ship to make her homecoming for Christmas after a busy month in the naval base. On Thursday, the Portsmouth Flotilla welcomed HMS Trent for the first time after construction in Scotland and initial sea trials. She joins the Fishery Protection Squadron which HMS Clyde is leaving.

Commanding Officer of the Fishery Protection Squadron, Commander Simon Pressdee, said: “It has been a real privilege to welcome HMS Clyde home today after what has been the longest Royal Navy deployment in modern times, achieving over 12 years forward-deployed to the South Atlantic. 

“More than 800 members of the squadron have served in HMS Clyde, experiencing life in the southern oceans for over six months at time, providing many of them with unique and special memories from an outstanding part of the planet. 

“Her decommissioning this afternoon will remember all those who have served in her before we hand this workhorse of the fleet back to BAE Systems who have carefully supported her throughout her deployment.”