HMS Edinburgh returns to Portsmouth from final deployment

HMS Edinburgh HMS Edinburgh has sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base ahead of being decommissioned in June

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The last of the Royal Navy's Type 42 destroyers has returned to Portsmouth from its final deployment.

HMS Edinburgh has spent the last six months patrolling the Atlantic and will be decommissioned in June - having clocked up 793,345 miles.

It is the last of the Type 42 class to go on active operations before they are replaced by new generation Type 45 destroyers.

The 30-year-old warship underwent a £17.5m refit in 2010.

HMS Edinburgh worked on counter drug trafficking measures off west Africa before visiting the Caribbean and the US.

The largest of the Type 42 destroyers built for the Royal Navy, it was launched in 1983 and served in the 2003 Iraq war.

The Type 42 T class was designed in 1968 to provide fleet area air-defence.

Robert Mullen of the newly set up Type 42 Association, said he had many "fond memories" of working on board the warships.

"It was like a floating village," said the 54-year-old, who worked on HMS Sheffield, HMS Southampton, HMS Manchester and HMS Newcastle as a leading seaman and a petty officer.

'Floating village'

"The mess decks were quite close, tight and well lived-in. I've never had a bad crew, and if everyone gets along you can have a good crack.

"So whether you're Portsmouth, the Far East or down the Falklands, you're taking a group of people with you enjoy being with that works hard and plays hard. You have a good time where ever you go."

Analysis

The fighting 42s were the backbone of the fleet for over thirty years.

In the Royal Navy they were the Martini option: Any time, any place, anywhere.

The very first of the class, HMS Sheffield, was ordered back in 1968 and came into service in 1975.

They were in the thick of the battle for the Falklands - where Sheffield and her sister ship Coventry sank after being hit by missiles.

Altogether, 14 Type 42 destroyers were built - the final four, including HMS Edinburgh, being made longer to improve performance in rough seas.

Along with the Falklands, the destroyers saw active service in both Gulf Wars and, most recently, HMS Liverpool was in action off the Libyan coast.

Over recent years, keeping the ageing 42s at sea has become more challenging - and the old destroyers have been pensioned off one by one.

They're being replaced by Type 45 destroyers. Originally the plan was to have 12 of the new ships but budget constraints mean there will be only six.

It is the end of a distinguished chapter in naval history.

Mr Mullen was a survivor on HMS Sheffield, which sank during the Falklands War in 1982 after being hit by an Exocet missile.

"I was a 23-year-old leading hand, it was exciting but scary at the same time," Mr Mullen said, "and I look on with sadness at the people we lost, some of my friends who I'd known for two years and were close friends on shore and abroad."

Commanding Officer of HMS Duncan, the latest of the new Type 45 destroyers, said the new ships were "the world's first fully integrated, all-electric propulsion front-line warship, with an on-board power plant capable of generating 47 megawatts, or enough to power a small city".

He added: "Our accommodation standards for all crew members are far higher than on previous Royal Navy destroyers.

"For example, our junior rates are accommodated in six-berth cabins rather than large mess decks, which will be good for morale during long periods at sea."

Mr Mullen said: "You'll get the old sailors saying you can shove your 45s but it's modernisation isn't it, you can't keep them forever."

The Type 42 Association, which was set up in November 2011, is holding a reunion on HMS Excellent on 13 July.

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