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Friday, 25 July 2014

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HMS Trafalgar pulls down flag and retires from sea

A BARROW-BUILT submarine was retired yesterday.

The nuclear-powered HMS Trafalgar hauled down the flag in a decommissioning ceremony at Devonport.

Although 13 is unlucky for some, HMS Trafalgar had a special relationship with the number.

The submarine’s designated number was SSN-13, she had 13 commanding officers and had two commissions of 13 years each with a nuclear refuelling in between.

The sub which will now be stripped of its reactor and reusable parts and stored, travelled 200,000 miles on the surface and a further 500,000 miles underwater since its launch in Barrow in 1981.

The submarine left and returned to her home port of Devonport more than 250 times during her lifetime and enjoyed over 50 visits to overseas ports.

During a standard three-month patrol, the average periscope watchkeeper would walk a total distance of 27km in a circle around the periscope as he maintained an all-round look to keep the submarine safe and undetected.

HMS Trafalgar was the first British submarine to send an email to an address ashore while deployed at sea.

She fired 149 practice torpedoes and fired numerous Tomahawk land attack missiles during her career.

Over 26 years of near constant use, the nuclear reactor produced enough power for a town the size of Swindon.

One of the two electrolysers onboard could make enough oxygen from water to support 150 people for a lifetime; the equivalent output of 450 mature oak trees.

During an average patrol HMS Trafalgar made over 2.5 million litres of fresh water – enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The submarine had three propellers.

One is fitted to her now, another is displayed outside the Submarine Museum in Gosport and the third is sitting in South Yard at Devonport.

In her 26-year service close to 3,000 submariners were proud to call HMS Trafalgar their home.

More than 2.5 million meals were cooked in the galley.

Over 700,000 sausages and nearly 300 tons of potatoes were eaten onboard and five million cups of tea were drunk.

The day of the week could be determined underwater by what was on the menu so HMS Trafalgar’s galley produced approximately 80,000 ‘Saturday Steaks’ and ‘Fish on a Friday’ meals, with over 100 tons of curry.

The decommissioning was attended by Lady Fieldhouse of Gosport, the wife of the former Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fieldhouse.

Members of the Submariners Association in Barrow, who served on HMS Trafalgar, travelled to Devonport for the ceremony.

HMS Trafalgar’s commanding officer, Commander Charlie Shepherd, addressed the ceremonial guard comprising the submarine’s crew before an audience of the submarine’s former commanding officers and a military band.

Cdr Shepherd said the legacy of the submarine in human terms lived on, despite the vessel leaving the service of the Royal Navy.

He said: “This is not just about a steel hull but about the people who served on her. It is about the resilience, cheerfulness and teamwork of her people who were always ready to help each other.

“It was an enormously special time for me as the commanding officer.”

Cdr Shepherd said HMS Trafalgar regularly blazed the trail for her sister vessels and the submarine service as a whole.

Trafalgar’s decommissioning comes as the Royal Navy is preparing to commission the £1.2bn first-of-class Barrow sub Astute early in the new year.

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