The only vessel of her class in the Royal Navy , a Type 82 destroyer – HMS BRISTOL D 23 paid off last Wednesday 28th October after 47 years of naval service. She was laid down by Swan Hunter & Tyne Shipbuilders Ltd on 15 th November 1967. She was launched on 30th June 1969, and accepted into service on 15th December 1972 of which she was commissioned on 31st March 1973. Her estimated building cost was £24,217,000.
Originally intended as the first of a class of large destroyers to escort the CVA-01 aircraft carriers which was proposed UK aircraft carrier to replace HMS VICTORIOUS and HMS ARK ROYAL and projected to come into service in the early 1970s she turned out to be a unique ship: the rest of the class were cancelled with the CVA-01 carriers in the 1966 Strategic Defence Review.
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During the Falklands War in 1982 she was suitable for use as a flagship as she was large enough to embark the extra staff members necessary for this role and served as the Royal Navy flagship during the 1981 Ocean Safari exercise. After a short refit, during which the mortar well was plated over to allow the landing of large helicopters on the quarterdeck, she joined the Royal Navy task force in the South Atlantic in the 1982 Falklands War and led her group of reinforcement ships south and then joined the carrier battle group, Task Group 317.8. On 22nd May she fired two Sea Dart missiles at spurious radar returns caused by interference with similar radars fitted on ships within the group.
Following a long career she was converted into a training ship in 1987. In fact on Friday 13th November 1987 she entered Grand Harbour, Malta for the first time with HMS ROTHESAY F 107( Had 1 x Wasp HAS.1 helicopter with serial XT785/462 from 829 Naval Air Squadron) and HMS EURYALUS F 15 ( Had 1 x Wasp HAS.1 helicopter with serial XT791/433 from 829 Naval Air Squadron) as part of the Dartmouth Training Squadron berthing at Crucifix Wharf.
During 1991 while she was part of the Dartmouth training squadron, she suffered a Olympus gas turbine failure that damaged the power turbine. The damage was beyond economical repair and no longer having enough value to be sold to another navy, she became a Harbour Training ship at the shore establishment HMS EXCELLENT.
HMS BRISTOL D 23 was refitted at A&P Tyne, Hebburn and the effects of the refit were said to extend the service life of 10 more years. Work was intended to bring facilities on the naval ship in line with health and safety standards.The redundant masts containing the ship’s Type 1022 and Type 992Q search radars were removed.
She departed from Portsmouth on 20th October 2010 arriving at Hebburn under tow on the morning of 3rd November 2010. Then she left Hebburn in April 2011 to return back to Portsmouth.
When the news of the disposal was made public the leader of Portsmouth City Council Gerald Vernon-Jackson called for HMS BRISTOL D 23 to be maintained as a museum ship within the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
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Published – Monday 2nd November, 2020.