RFA Gold Rover returns to Portsmouth before ending service

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After 43 years supporting Royal Navy operations around the globe, RFA Gold Rover has reached the end of her lengthy and distinguished career.

Proudly flying her paying-off pennant, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship arrived in Portsmouth today ahead of her official end-of-service ceremony on Monday 6th March 2017.

It marks the end of four decades of service from the RFA tanker, which has supported drugs busts, humanitarian relief missions, and sea rescues, in addition to her core role of replenishing the Royal Navy’s fleet.

The single-hulled tanker makes way for the double-hulled RFA Tidespring and her three sisters, Tiderace, Tidesurge, and Tideforce. Tidespring will formally enter service later this year.

Commodore Duncan Lamb, head of the RFA, said: “This is a significant period in the history of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and perhaps a moment to reflect as we reach the end of the Rover Class.

“It is also an opportunity to look to the future at the Tide-class ships. These versatile and hugely capable new vessels will significantly enhance the global operational output currently provided by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.”

RFA Gold Rover, the last of the Rover-class small single-hull fleet tankers, was built at Wallsend in Newcastle by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd. Ordered in November 1971 and launched on March 7th 1973, Gold Rover was accepted into service with the RFA just over a year later March 22nd 1974.

From that day onwards, the ship has provided steadfast support to the Royal Navy on a wide variety of global operations.

Captain Jonathan Huxley, Gold Rover’s last ever Commanding Officer, said: “Throughout her time Gold Rover has been a force for good in the world.

“She has been a regular visitor to the South Atlantic, and was always well-loved by her crew and warmly welcomed by friends across the globe.”

During her decades of service, Gold Rover has taken part in evacuation duties during the partition of Cyprus (1974) and Liberia (1996). She has undertaken flood relief operations in Jamaica (1986) and delivered humanitarian aid at Tristan da Cunha (2007), resupplying medical stores after 271 people in the British Overseas Territory suffered a viral infection.

In 2006, en route to Nigeria with Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll, Gold Rover was involved in a £60million cocaine bust after intercepting 1.8 tonnes of the drug off West Africa. She has also been involved in eight rescue missions involving the saving of lives at sea.

During her eventful career, it is estimated that Gold Rover replenished ships at sea 8,256 times

Throughout her years at sea, those who have served on board Gold Rover have maintained a strong relationship with the TS Gold Rover Sea Cadet unit, based at Greenock in Scotland.

Lieutenant Commander Jim Hearl, the Commanding Officer of TS Gold Rover, said: “Greenock and District Sea Cadets take great pride in their long association with RFA Gold Rover.

“A number of the Sea Cadets who have served in this unit have gone on to have successful careers in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.”

Photos courtesy of the Royal Navy Media Archive.