The Royal Navy formally decommissioned its amphibious assault ship and former fleet flagship, HMS Ocean (L12) in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen at Her Majesty’s Naval Base HMNB Devonport in Plymouthon March 27, 2018.
The Queen, who once launched the ship as the ship’s sponsor, was guest of honour at the ceremony. She was joined by the head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones and more than 500 of the ship’s company, their families and affiliates of the ship.
During the decommissioning ceremony, The Queen inspected a parade of the ship’s company on the jetty and observed a flypast of military aircraft as she boarded the ship. The crowds were entertained by music from the Royal Marines Band.
The ceremony ended with the Royal Navy’s White Ensign being symbolically hauled down from the ship’s main mast.
The ship’s Executive Officer, Commander Nick Wood, said: “This is a sad day for us all. This is our home when we are away. But while we will miss HMS Ocean we mustn’t let emotion cloud the bright future for the Royal Navy or stand in the way of progress. The ship that replaces HMS Ocean, HMS Prince of Wales, is much larger and has greatly increased advanced capability.”
The Queen met members of the crew and their families on board before being presented with the official decommissioning book and with mementos and gifts from the ship.
The ship officially leaves service with the Royal Navy this week after an eventful 20-year history. During her busy career HMS Ocean has shown she is not only a warship that can engage the enemy, but engages with the world as a symbol of UK influence. This has been seen recently with her humanitarian aid to hurricane-devastated British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean islands.
Lieutenant Lindsey Gascoigne had a starring parade role, standing a few feet away from The Queen at the front of the guard during the decommissioning ceremony. She carried the Queen’s Colour – a special silk White Ensign with the Crown and Royal Cypher as a symbol of respect to the Navy which represents heroic deeds and battle honours.
The helicopters in the flypast were a Wildcat from 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and a Merlin Mk3 from 845 NAS based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton (RNAS); a Sea King Mk 7 from 849 NAS and two Merlin Mk2s from 814 NAS based at RNAS Culdrose, and Chinook from 27 Squadron based at RAF Odiham.
Lieutenant Commander David Starkey, operations officer on board HMS Ocean, played a key role in the ceremony as parade commander.
HMS Ocean, or the Mighty O, as she is known throughout the fleet, has been sold to the Brazilian navy for £84m ($118.8m). She will now undertake a period of maintenance. The Brazilian Navy will pay for modifications to the ship, to be undertaken by UK firms Babcock and BAE Systems, and will then take possession of HMS Ocean in June.
She is expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro by the end of 2018 with the intention of being commissioned and fully operational by 2020.
HMS Ocean (L12)
HMS Ocean was an amphibious assault ship, the UK’s helicopter carrier and the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy.
She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan on the River Clyde and fitted out by VSEL at Barrow-in-Furness prior to trials and subsequent acceptance in service. Ocean was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port HMNB Devonport, Plymouth.
She was designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force.
The ship has six helicopter operating spots on her flight deck with space in the hangar to hold many more. HMS Ocean’s crew of 400 personnel included Royal Marines who operate four landing craft to take forces ashore.
The 21,500-tonne amphibious assault ship has a top speed of 16 knots and a range in excess 8,000 miles on a single tank of fuel.