Emotional farewell to much-loved Grafton

IPSWICH has said its final goodbye to HMS Grafton. In a moving decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth, Ipswich's civic leaders and other dignitaries bade farewell to the popular ship.

IPSWICH has said its final goodbye to HMS Grafton.

In a moving decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth, Ipswich's civic leaders and other dignitaries bade farewell to the popular ship.

Peter Thompson, vice chairman of Ipswich Royal Naval Association, said emotions ran high during the ceremony.

He said: “Many were in tears. It was very sad to say goodbye.

“For the ship's company it was like losing their home. They were very solemn.”

Mr Thompson has got to know many of those who served on the ship since it was commissioned nine years ago.

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He said past and present crew members at the ceremony were hoping to start an HMS Grafton association.

He said: “It really was a sad day for Ipswich. Grafton has done a great deal for our town. But they have asked me to be on the HMS Grafton association committee so the strong links the ship had with the town will be able to continue.”

Grafton has been sold by the Ministry of Defence to the Chilean Navy along with other Type 23 frigates HMS Marlborough, HMS Norfolk in a deal worth £135million.

Ipswich mayor Bill Wright was among those invited to the ceremony.

He said: “It was sad to see the ship go. She has been a great asset to the town and she will be sorely missed. Perhaps one day we will have another ship affiliated to Ipswich.”

During the ceremony, which was attended by First Sea Lord Sir Jonathan Band KCB ADC and ship's sponsor Lady Abbott and the Duchess of Grafton, Mr Thompson was presented with a shell fired from the ship as it sailed into Ipswich for the last time.

HMS Grafton is the latest in a line of seven earlier Graftons stretching back more than 300 years.

The first four Graftons, between the years 1679 and 1816, were ships of the line, with the first being commanded at one point by the 27-year-old Duke of Grafton. Between them they won a number of honours from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

The eighth Grafton, a Type 23 frigate, was launched in 1994 and commissioned in 1997.

Grafton was designed primarily as a specialist anti-submarine ship and she is one of the quietest warships in the world.

Grafton carried Seawolf, Harpoon and Sea Skua missiles, a Stingray torpedo and a 4.5in gun.

Grafton is powered by Rolls-Royce gas turbines and has a top speed of 28 knots.

The decommissioning ceremony included the naval Hymn 'Eternal Father Strong To Save' and 'Jerusalem'.

Source www.navynews.co.uk

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