The Royal Navy has decommissioned patrol boats HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar in a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base today.
The pair have spent nearly 30 years in service, serving in Northern Ireland in their early career and as guard ships with the Gibraltar Squadron from 2003 to late 2020.
They returned to the UK two years ago from Gibraltar, with HMS Dasher and HMS Pursuer taking over duties around the Rock temporarily while two modern £5m boats, HMS Cutlass and HMS Dagger, worked towards full operations.
Since being back in home waters, Sabre and Scimitar have been used to give sailors in training valuable sea time as they learn essential naval skills that will provide a foundation for their careers.
The last sailors to serve on Sabre and Scimitar gathered at the base for the decommissioning ceremony attended by affiliates and Royal Navy seniors.
Commanding officer of Scimitar, Lieutenant Joshua Tyrie, said: “It’s been an honour to be the last commanding officer of Scimitar. It’s a bittersweet moment saying goodbye to the ship.
“Today is a sad day, we’ve put a lot of time and work into maintaining these ships making sure we can deliver on operations.
“It’s now sadly time to say goodbye and it’s the right time to do so but it tugs on the heartstrings, especially with the good work the ship’s company has put in to keep them going over such a long career.”
He added: “My highlight of my command was driving her under Tower Bridge in London and sail past HMS Belfast.”
Both HMS Sabre and Scimitar started off their service in the Royal Navy under different names.
Scimitar was known as Grey Fox while Sabre was known as Grey Wolf during their stint on operations in Northern Ireland. They served as Royal Marines’ patrol crafts having joined the Fleet in 1993.
Then almost a decade later, the pair were renamed and sent to Gibraltar, guarding the Rock’s waters across 17 years.
Lieutenant Chris Cotterill, commanding officer of Sabre, said: “I feel somewhat emotion about being the last commanding officer of HMS Sabre based on the fact she’s been in the water since before I was even born. There’s a lot of history there.
“It means a lot for us to give her a proper send off today. We’ve been working hard these last weeks and months for the Coastal Forces Squadron, but making sure Sabre gets a proper send-off is very close to our hearts.”
He added: “One of my highlights of my time with Sabre was last December escorting HMS Queen Elizabeth back in after her global deployment.”
The first replacement, HMS Cutlass, was recently handed over to the Gibraltar Squadron after three months of trials ahead of being declared fully operational in this spring, while the second, HMS Dagger, is due to arrive later this year.
Together, they will be long-term replacements for Sabre and Scimitar and will be the backbone of the squadron, replacing P2000s Dasher and Pursuer.
With a top speed of 40 knots, the new boats – built by Merseyside-based Marine Specialised Technology – are twice as fast as the P2000s, smaller, nimbler and equipped with the latest optical and infra-red systems, enabling crew to identify and track potential threats at range.
And unlike Dasher and Pursuer – both nearly 35 years old – many of the systems on board are autonomous, helping the crew in her operation, maintenance and response to any unforeseen incidents.