Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Fort George left Plymouth on her final voyage yesterday, before her planned retirement from distinguished service around the world.
The one-stop supply ship, RFA Fort George entered HM Naval Base Devonport for the final time earlier this month and offloaded her remaining cargo and equipment prior to yesterday’s departure.
Several VIP events were held to mark the final voyage, including a visit and farewell lunch in honour of the ship’s sponsor, Lady Annie Slater, and her husband Admiral Sir Jock Slater.
Fort George’s Commanding Officer, Captain Jamie Murchie, said:
This special event was a good celebration of the ship’s past, but, inevitably, was also tinged with sadness because no-one likes to see a ship go out of service.
I am very proud to have been the Commanding Officer of Fort George for the past nine years. The highlights have been working on operations supporting the Royal Navy with a dedicated professional team over the years. I will be sad to leave her.
The auxiliary oiler replenishment class of RFA ships are the largest in the fleet, displacing more than HMS Ark Royal or HMS Ocean, and the ship’s multi-role capabilities have been the key to her success in humanitarian and operational tasks over the years.
Captain Murchie singled out a highlight of his career as the Battle of Trafalgar 200th anniversary celebrations in Portsmouth when his ship hosted Princess Michael of Kent. RFA Fort George has served with distinction throughout the world. Highlights include taking part in the handover of Hong Kong, playing a major part in the flood relief effort in Mozambique in 2000, for which the ship and her embarked squadron, 820 Naval Air Squadron, were awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace, and, in June of that year, she supported the Sierra Leone campaign.
In 2002, the ship was heavily involved in supporting land forces in Afghanistan, while the highlight of 2004 was a high-profile visit to New York for the Independence Day celebrations.
And, just last year, RFA Fort George carried out the highest total of deck landings in the Royal Navy throughout the Auriga 2010 deployment in the US, two Joint Warrior Exercises in the Atlantic off Scotland, and several periods of supporting operational flying training for squadrons from the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, Army and RAF.
Captain Murchie said that the ship’s final fate had yet to be decided, but one of his priorities would be to ensure the least disruption to the crew as they left the ship in the following weeks.
Deputy Logistics Officer David Knight said:
It is like leaving a family when you leave a ship, especially when it is going out of service. But there is a good career to have still. I am looking forward to my next ship.
The ship is being withdrawn from service under the Strategic Defence and Security Review and the need to reduce the number of auxiliary ships required to support a reduced fleet.