FOND farewells were paid once again to a Tyne-built warship refurbished in her home town and sent back to sea
HMS Bristol recently underwent a major refit at the hands of former shipyard workers from Hebburn, who first helped build her more than 40 years ago.
The 142-day project, which took place in Hebburn, South Tyneside, saw scores of ex-shipbuilding apprentices reunite to restore the Type 82 destroyer they built in 1969.
They were forced to part with their labour of love for a second time on Saturday, when the 7,000 tonne, Falklands War veteran made her way out of the Tyne with a new lease of life.
The multi-million pound repair work, which involved new decking, steel repairs and the installation of a new fire detection system, will extend her working life as a Royal Navy training vessel by at least 10 years.
Electrical foreman Ed Smith, 62, helped build the ship as a young apprentice and was part of the team at A&P Tyne charged with the task of reviving the old sea dog.
Mr Smith, of Walkerville, in Newcastle, said: “Of all the ships I’ve worked on, the Bristol is probably the one that means the most.
“I’ve never met a person yet who’s worked on a ship – especially a warship because you spend years on them – who isn’t proud of what they’ve helped build.
“Launches were exciting because the yards used to open the ship up once they were finished so the men could take their families round and show off their handiwork.
“There used to be queues lined up outside the yard gates.
“Everyone would stand along the jetty and wave the ship goodbye when she left, with their chests out and their heads held high, proud of what they’d achieved.”
Other refurbishments on the vessel included the installation of emergency escape routes, extra accommodation, an office for the commanding officer and building a lecture theatre.
The ship was one of its kind after the 1966 Strategic Defence Review axed the construction of the rest of the class.
HMS Bristol is now heading home to Portsmouth where she hosts up to 17,000 visitors a year.
As the only static ship in the Royal Navy, with 483 berths, she provides the closest thing to a sea-going experience without leaving port.
Crowds of onlookers flocked to watch her leave the region from the River Tyne, to sail back to Portsmouth, on Saturday.
One of them was production manager at A&P Tyne, Bill Colquhoun – a former apprentice welder aboard HMS Bristol.
After waving her off from A&P, the 59-year-old drove to Tynemouth so he could see her sail out to sea.
Mr Colquhoun, from North Shields, said: “I had a bit of a lump in my throat when she came in because she was the first ship I worked on.
“Working on her again brought back many fond memories. They were really good times and I learnt a lot.”
Sales and commercial director at A&P Tyne, Neil Jarvis, said: “It was a challenging and complex project which we met in a relatively short time.
“The Bristol came in looking very tired but she’s leaving with a whole new lease of life.”
Working on her again brought back many fond memories. They were really good times and I learnt a lot