In an emotional farewell, HMS Campbeltown slipped her moorings and sailed past the heart of the town for the final time. The population had turned out in high numbers to watch and support the ship on her final sail-past.
During the ship’s visit the town staged a church service in honour of the frigate and the crew took part in a civic parade in a mutual expression of gratitude for the many years of close association during which a strong bond was formed.
On her departure the ship was accompanied by the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeboat and crew with which close links have been formed over the years. The ship’s company lined the upper deck in formation to pay their respects to the town. Then, as the frigate slowly steamed away, the ship’s company conducted an eleven-gun salute in Campbeltown’s honour.
As the sound of the final gun echoed back to the town the ship’s company cheered residents who had come out to bid her farewell.
HMS Campbeltown headed out to the open sea accompanied by the lifeboat for a short while and the ship’s company then cheered the lifeboat before steaming away. Commander Keri Harris always knew this would be an emotional day for the townsfolk and crew and said:
A powerful bond has developed between us over the years, and so sailing from our affiliated town for the last time has been a wrench. We leave in our wake great friendship and affection, epitomised by the generous hospitality afforded to my entire crew over the past few days.
It is hard to imagine any other small town in the British Isles providing such a busy and exciting programme of events for a warship.
There have been many highlights, but for me the town parade and church service held in the ship’s honour were the most moving; they brought into focus the sense of loss being experienced by the town as HMS Campbeltown prepares to decommission early.
I hope many of the ship’s close friends from the town will be able to join us for the final ceremony in Devonport.
The ship’s motto is ‘Victoria Fortes Sequitur’ which translates as ‘Victory through Strength’. The crest is of a Bog Myrtle bush, a plant only found in the area surrounding the town of Campbeltown in Argyll, Scotland.