HMS Gleaner
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Little But Mighty: Farewell To The Navy's Smallest Ship

The Royal Navy's smallest commissioned vessel, HMS Gleaner, entered Plymouth yesterday for the final time.

HMS Gleaner

The Royal Navy's smallest commissioned vessel, HMS Gleaner, entered Plymouth yesterday for the final time.

The inshore survey vessel, flying her 16-metre decommissioning pennant as a traditional symbol of her length of service, returned to her home port for the last time after 35 years' service.

Able Seaman Bradley, the ship’s signaller, said:

"Despite the wet weather, it was fantastic to be part of such an important tradition, and I'm really pleased to have had the opportunity."

As the crew came alongside in Devonport Naval Base they were met by Captain Gary Hesling, the Hydrographer of the Navy and former commanding officer of HMS Gleaner.

HMS Gleaner made a triumphant exit, conducting her final survey operations in Portsmouth supporting the mighty new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

HMS Gleaner and QE
Just six metres longer than Gleaner, patrol boat HMS Pursuer got up close and personnel with the Navy’s future flagship last year.

The ship was tasked with ensuring that the recently dredged channel in Portsmouth was sufficiently deep enough for the carrier to safely enter and exit her new home port.

This is appropriate, as HMS Gleaner was responsible for the survey of Rosyth to ensure that HMS Queen Elizabeth could leave the basin where she was constructed.

Launched in 1983, the 15-metre-long vessel with a crew of nine was designed to carry out inshore survey work along the south coast of the UK,

However, she has travelled much further afield, having visited the Channel Islands, the Netherlands and Switzerland, a first for the Royal Navy.

HMS Gleaner has the unique distinction of being one of the few Royal Navy ships to visit the landlocked country, having travelled up the Rhine to Basel.

The decommissioning of HMS Gleaner will take place with a ceremony in Plymouth in the next few weeks, while her as yet unnamed replacement is to be delivered later this year.

Cover image: Royal Navy.