Thursday, 10 March 2011

HMS Campbeltown makes final visit to namesake town

From the BBC News website:

A ceremony will be held to remember one of the most daring raids of World War II and the part played by a vessel named after a Scottish town.

The current HMS Campbeltown, which is about to be decommissioned, bears the name of a vessel deliberately blown up in an attempt to destroy a dry dock in occupied France in 1942.

On Wednesday, HMS Campbeltown will visit the Argyllshire town she is named after for the last time.

Amongst the people who will take part in a civic ceremony is the son of the captain of the wartime ship.

Since 1989 HMS Campbeltown has regularly visited the Argyllshire town she is named after and strong links have been forged between the Royal Navy and the local community.

News of her decommissioning came in October last year as she was preparing to head out to the Indian Ocean on anti-piracy operations.

'Symbolic step'

Commanding Officer, Commander Keri Harris, said decommissioning a fine warship and disbanding her close-knit crew was never going to be easy.

He said: "Paying a final visit to our affiliated town is a symbolic step on that journey and we look forward to celebrating our long-standing affiliation with the local community in style."

As well as a big parade in the afternoon, various other events will be taking place over the next few days.

The current HMS Campbeltown, a Type 22 frigate, is named after a wartime vessel which was deliberately blown up in a daring operation nearly 70 years ago.

HMS Campbeltown blew up along with the dry dock at the French port of St Nazaire to prevent the port being used by some of Germany's greatest warships, including the Tirpitz.

'Greatest raid'

Several Victoria Crosses were awarded to individuals who played a part in the operation, described by some as "the greatest raid of all".

This HMS Campbeltown was, in fact, an elderly American vessel given to the Royal Navy by the United States through the lend-lease programme. Through this programme the USA offered some assistance to Britain in 1940 and '41, before the country actually entered the war.

As a token of gratitude the bell of HMS Campbeltown was given to the town of Campbelltown in Pennsylvania after the war.

After the current HMS Campbeltown was launched, the bell was given back to the Royal Navy on loan.

The historic bell will now be presented to the people of Campbeltown in Scotland, where it will be displayed for a few days. Later the Royal Navy will return the bell to Campbelltown, USA.

The ship will sail to Plymouth for the final time at the end of the month and will be decommissioned in April.

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