End of an era with Plymouth naval base set to close

Feb 29, 2008
Author: P&S

It was with a sense of mixed feelings tacked to a sharpened awareness of history when it was learned earlier this week that Britain’s oldest naval base, Plymouth is to close down and relocate.

Plymouth was the port in Devon in south England from which Drake’s navy set off to do battle with the Spanish Armada. Many other momentous departures took place to the Spanish Main and other destinations, including Captain Cooke’s voyage to the Pacific, but such history amounts to little once time has caught up and ‘those in command’ have decided it is time to go.

From all accounts it was something of a toss-up between Plymouth or Portsmouth as the naval dockyard to close, with the Devon port having drawn the short straw.

The closure will come after 2012 once the last remaining older type nuclear submarines receive core replacements. The new Astute class are being fitted with nuclear cores that will last the lifetime of each boat and for this reason alone Plymouth’s future has been decided. Frigates and other surface ships based there will be transferred to Portsmouth while five of the frigates are likely to be axed in still to be announced defence cuts.

The two remaining dockyards, at Portsmouth in the south of England and Rosyth in Scotland will absorb what was previously done at Plymouth. Remaining older class submarines in the Royal Navy will ultimately transfer to the submarine base at Faslane in Scotland.

The announcement this week by UK defence sources is in contrast to assertions by Prime Minister Gordon Browne, made last year that all three naval dockyards still had a future.


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