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The final parade for HMS
An order to remove bayonets from rifles formally ended Chatham's
main link with the Royal Navy.
The order was given in Dock Road at midday.
Seconds before, the Captain of HMS Chatham, Cmdr Simon
Huntington, had formally returned his ship's Freedom scroll to the
Mayor of Medway. It ended the right to march with bayonets
Last Tuesday the ship had been formally decommissioned in
Portsmouth after 21 years service.
She was the last of 14 Royal Navy warships to bear
the name Chatham and was also the last ship commissioned in
During her long career she opened the Second Gulf War, ended
Britain's links with Asia when the High Commissioner of Hong Kong
handed the territory back to the Chinese, took on the Somali
pirates, tackled drugrunning, and led the humanitarian aid in Sri
Lanka after the Boxing Day tsunami killed a quarter of a million
Today's events were the final formal act for the ship's
At a private lunchtime reception in the St George's Centre, Cmdr
Huntington handed the ship's ensign to the Mayor, Cllr David Brake,
for safekeeping. The Towns' council already holds the stained
battle ensign from the morning she began shelling Iraq.
Earlier the captain had visited Pembroke House, the retirement
home in Gillingham for 49 former navy, marine and wren
There he presented the ship's library and video collection to
the residents, saying: "I cannot think of a better place for it all
to be used."
The ship's company marched behind a Royal Marines Band through
thousands of spectators in places packed 10 deep.
They applauded and occasionally cheered, but more than one
wistfully recalled the days when Chatham was a both a naval base
and the birthplace of more than 400 naval ships.