Royal Navy’s oldest active vessel ready for retirement

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Gold Rover entered Portsmouth one final time on February 22, marking the end of her 43-year career.

The tanker made the entry minutes after a wartime bomb was moved from the harbour.

RN divers dealt with the German 250kg device which was dredged up overnight as part of preparatory work for the arrival of the Navy’s new carriers.

RFA Gold Rover made her way into Portsmouth and Fountain Lake Jetty, where over the coming weeks all things useful will be stripped out as the ship is prepared for the breaker’s yard.

Given her length of service, the tanker was permitted the rare honour – for a ship in the RFA – of flying a decommissioning pennant, a long very thin version of the Blue Ensign auxiliaries hoist.

Based on a combination of the length of the career and length of the ship, it stretched for 140 metres (460ft).

“This is a significant period in the history of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – and perhaps a moment to reflect as we reach the end of the Rover class,” Cdre Duncan Lamb, head of the RFA said. “But it’s also an opportunity to look to the future at the Tide-class ships.”

Right now, the first of those – Tidespring – is on a 16,000-mile odyssey from the shipbuilder in Korea, crossing the Pacific, passing through Panama then across the Atlantic to the UK for final fitting out.