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Golden sunset for veteran tanker as dusk ceremony marks end of more than 40 years’ service
7 March 2017

A sunset ceremony marked the last act in the 43-year career of tanker RFA Gold Rover - the oldest vessel in active service in the Navy.

Former crew joined today's Naval and RFA leaders for an 'end of service' ceremony - there are no formal commissioning/ decommissioning ceremonies in the auxiliary service - in Portsmouth Naval Base.

Pictures: LPhot Barry Swainsbury

WITH the last sun of a late winter’s afternoon giving sections of her 460ft hull a golden hue, tanker Gold Rover enjoys her final moments as a serving Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

A few minutes later in Portsmouth Naval Base and a formal ‘end of service’ ceremony marked the last act of a career which began when Harold Wilson had just entered No.10 (for the second time), a pint of beer cost 20p and the average Briton drove around in a Ford Cortina Mk3, lived in a house worth £10k and took home £32 a week.

Commander Naval Operations Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant and the Head of the RFA Cdre Duncan Lamb joined former COs of the tanker for a service of thanksgiving led by the RFA’s chaplain, the Rev Mike Hills, celebrating 43 years of work around the globe.

Rear Admiral Tarrant said that like the rest of her class, Gold Rover had been “small, simple and effective”.

The RFA Ensign is folded up after being lowered for the last time

He continued: “Her departure heralds the end of an era as she represents the last of her class; a class, which has given a significant contribution to the Naval Service.

“Gold Rover has proven herself a capable and versatile asset who will be sorely missed by the Royal Navy and the numerous people’s lives she positively affected”.

The ship was ordered in November 1971, launched 16 months later and raised the Blue Ensign for the first time on March 22 1974.

Nearly 43 years to the day, the ensign was lowered for the last time as night fell on Portsmouth Naval Base.

The Rovers were renowned for their reliability – one reason why Black and Gold Rovers both served more than 40 years, while Blue Rover continues to serve the Portuguese Navy, and the oldest, Green Rover, still flies the Indonesian flag as KRI Arun… 48 years after first pumping fuel into the tanks of a British warship.

Rear Admiral Tarrant praises Gold Rover's long, proud service record

“The Rovers were built on sound, simple commercial design principles,” explained Capt Nick Pilling RFA, Gold Rover’s chief engineer on her final voyage.

“Their reliability can be attributed to a strong simple straightforward design of equipment and purpose, maintained by professional seagoing personnel, well supported by a focused RFA and commercial shore team with a wealth of operational experience at sea.”

Throughout Gold Rover’s career she maintained strong ties and her namesake Sea Cadet unit in Greenock, a relationship forged back in 1973 by the very first CO Capt Barry Rutterford. Those links led to a number of Greenock cadets going on to have successful careers in the RFA.