Royal Navy decommissions inshore survey vessel HMS Gleaner

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The Royal Navy has decommissioned its smallest ship, the HMSML Gleaner, in a ceremony at Devonport Naval Base.

Crewed by just eight sailors, Her Majesty’s Survey Motor Launch (HMSML) Gleaner spent 35 years in service with the Royal Navy.

Since her commissioning in 1983, Gleaner has operated in the majority of ports around the UK ensuring that safety of navigation is maintained.

Gleaner has also deployed outside of the UK to the Netherlands and Channel Islands and has the unique distinction of being one of the few Royal Navy ships to visit landlocked Switzerland, having travelled up the Rhine to Basel.

Her commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Will Alexander, said: “I’ve had the privilege of serving in Gleaner on two occasions, once as the Executive Officer and now as Commanding Officer as she decommissions.”

Will is in the unique position of being the last CO of HMS Gleaner and the first CO of the replacement ship, HMS Magpie, due to arrive in Devonport later on this year.

The decommissioning ceremony took place alongside HMS Gleaner in front of previous CO’s and the Commander of the Devonport Flotilla, Commodore Rob Bellfield, who was the guest of honour.

As tradition dictates, following the ceremony a de-commissioning cake was cut by the ship’s youngest sailor and also the ship’s signaller, 28-year old Able Seaman Joel Bradley with Commodore Bellfield.

Joel, who has been in the Navy for five years, said: “I’ve been on board Gleaner for just over a year. It’s been an honour to cut the decommissioning cake with the Commander of the Devonport Flotilla.

“I will be transferring over to the new ship HMS Magpie which will have more advanced kit on board. In the meantime, I shall be keeping up to date with training.”

Gleaner’s replacement was recently announced by the First Sea Lord as HMS Magpie. She is due to be delivered to the Royal Navy in the summer of 2018. The new ship is a modern catamaran design which will enable the Navy to harness the latest technology and operate a more diverse range of survey equipment, including autonomous underwater vehicles.

With an overall length of 18 metres the new vessel is larger than the existing Gleaner. The title of Royal Navy’s smallest commissioned vessel will pass on to the fast patrol boats HM Ships Scimitar and Sabre of the Gibraltar Squadron.

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