HMS Edinburgh bids farewell to capital namesake

THIS JUNE, a 300-year-old tradition will come to an end - for it will be the first time since 1707 that there won’t be a naval vessel carrying the name of Scotland’s capital. HMS Edinburgh, a type-42 destroyer launched in 1983 - and the last of its class - will be decommissioned following a farewell tour.
HMS Edinburgh departs Leith for Liverpool. Picture: Jane BarlowHMS Edinburgh departs Leith for Liverpool. Picture: Jane Barlow
HMS Edinburgh departs Leith for Liverpool. Picture: Jane Barlow

Affectionately known as the The Fortress of the Sea, HMS Edinburgh racked up more than 793,000 miles of global operational service during her thirty years of service and affiliation with Scotland’s capital city, including action in the second Gulf War.

HMS Edinburgh has also been involved in Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED), and in 2004 took part in Operation Active Endeavour, which monitored sea lanes as part of the War on Terror.

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Commanding Officer of the ship, Nick Borbone, said: “There is no easy way to bid farewell to a strong affiliation like the one HMS Edinburgh has enjoyed with this most historic city.

HMS Edinburgh arrives in the capital. Picture: Neil HannaHMS Edinburgh arrives in the capital. Picture: Neil Hanna
HMS Edinburgh arrives in the capital. Picture: Neil Hanna

“Scottish hospitality is legendary and throughout the three decades of service which this ship has given, the fondness shown to HMS Edinburgh by the city has grown stronger and stronger.”

The city’s Lord Provost Donald Wilson added: “HMS Edinburgh has had a long and close association with the city since her launch in 1983. In the 30 years since, she has ranged far and wide in support of British interests across the world.

“In view of this significant contribution and that of the many hundreds of personnel who have served aboard with such distinction, it is my great honour to confer the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh upon ‘The Fortress of the Sea’.”

A history of the ‘Edinburgh’ ships

The First Edinburgh

The first ‘Edinburgh’ warship, originally the Scottish ship ‘Royal William’, was launched in 1707, a fifth rate warship carrying 32 guns. She was sunk two years later as a breakwater after being transferred from the Royal Scottish Navy.

The Second Edinburgh

The forty-year-old Warspite was rebuilt and renamed ‘Edinburgh’ in 1715. She was broken up in 1771.

The Third Edinburgh

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Launched in 1811, the third ship had 70 guns, and was converted to steam-powered screw propulsion in 1846. She gained battle honours ‘Syria 1840’ against the Egyptians and ‘Baltic 1854/55’ against the Russians. She was sold for breaking up in 1866, after serving time as a guard ship for the port of Leith.

The Fourth Edinburgh

In 1882, the first battleship to carry breech loading guns was launched. The sister ship of HMS Colossus was slated to be named HMS Majestic, but the decision was taken to rename the ship ‘HMS Edinburgh’ just two days before its launch. She spent time as a guad ship at Queensferry until 1897, when she went into reserve before being convered to a target ship in 1908. She was broken up in 1910.

The Fifth Edinburgh

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The fifth, and most famous warship to carry the ‘Edinburgh’ name was built in 1939, and took part in a number of operations, including a minor role in the hunt for the Bismarck in May 1941.

She was involved in escorting two convoys to the Soviet Union in March 1942.

Whilst on convoy duty in April, she was torpedoed by German U-Boat U456. Despite attempts to return to the port of Murmansk, she was attacked by three German destroyers. At least 57 men were killed in the initial attacks, but efforts from the minesweeper HMS Harrier to scuttle the Edinburgh failed. HMS Foresight, which had attempted to help Edinburgh back to Murmansk, eventually sunk the ship with its last torpedo.

HMS Edinburgh had been carrying a cargo of £5 million in gold bullion in war payment to the UK. In 1981, a large amount of the gold was recovered and by 1986, all but five bars had been recovered.