To the sounds of the Morpeth Pipe Band, the Guard of Honor from HMS Northumberland marched on to the temporary Parade Ground at Whitehill Point Jetty in the Port of Tyne to mark the ship’s return to the Fleet in a rededication service.
In an unusual setting because ships are usually rededicated in their home ports, the location allowed more of the ship’s affiliates to attend the ceremony. Special guests of honor included the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and the ship’s sponsor Lady Anne Kerr.
The ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Alexandra Pollard, thanked the people of the north east for their welcome: “It is really important to us to be here today to strengthen our affiliations with the north east. Built on the Tyne it is good to see so many of our affiliates here.
“These links are important to us and it’s a really momentous day in our history. We have received a warm and generous welcome and I know that the ship’s company are looking forward to getting out to visit Newcastle.
“HMS Northumberland is a reliable workhorse to the Fleet and as we leave Newcastle we now prepare to move forward to our operational training.”
The ship’s sponsor, Lady Anne Kerr, said: “It has been a delight for me to meet up with some of Northumberland’s previous Commanding Officers and one of the highlights of the day has been cutting the beautiful rededication cake with Able Seaman Jack Smith. I have had a long and proud association with the ship, and long may it continue.”
Four men in particular found the ceremony quite emotional. Former workers at the Swan Hunter shipyard, they had helped build HMS Northumberland during the early 90s.
Ken MacDonald, John Farrow, Richard Gonzales and Joe Knox said it had been “very emotional coming back today and we all have a sense of pride after all these years.”
Joe said: “It has been an amazing experience to come back and see the ship. It was a great ship to work on – very happy days.
“One of my most memorable experiences was when we sailed on the delivery voyage down to Devonport Naval Base when we delivered the ship from the Yard to the Royal Navy – that was a special week, we were so full of pride.”
The ship opened her doors to visitors over the weekend and despite a certain football game they welcomed over 1,500 people on board for a look round the newly refitted frigate.