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Second life officially begins for Severn after Thames recommissioning

HMS Severn's stern is turned into a mini ampitheatre for the ceremony
28 August 2021
Patrol ship HMS Severn was today officially welcomed back into the Royal Navy family – despite being busy on operations for the past 14 months.

Berthed alongside world-famous wartime cruiser HMS Belfast on the Thames near Tower Bridge, the River-class ship was recommissioned in a traditional naval ceremony in the heart of the nation’s capital. 

A hectic schedule and Covid/lockdown restrictions prevented the Portsmouth-based warship formally rejoining the Fleet as she enjoys a ‘second life’ under the White Ensign.

Severn arrived in the Pool of London after a short maintenance period in Falmouth Docks. There, the dockyard applied a unique paint scheme, mirroring ships who waged the Battle of the Atlantic 80 years ago.

The combination of blue-grey and green-grey on a background of white and light grey is known as the Western Approaches paint scheme.

First used by World War 2 destroyer HMS Broke, it was worn by ships operating in the namesake approaches – extending about 1,000 miles from the UK into the Atlantic – to hide more effectively from German U-boat commanders.

HMS Severn is the first vessel to receive the paint job since World War 2. While radar makes the use of maritime camouflage largely irrelevant, it is a tribute to sailors of the Battle of the Atlantic who operated in the same waters.

Bringing Severn back from the dead has been an amazing experience and commissioning here alongside Belfast is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and dedication

Commander Phil Harper, HMS Severn's Commanding Officer

Severn has been fully operational since July last year following comprehensive regeneration.

She was originally decommissioned in October 2017 after 14 years’ service, chiefly patrolling UK fishing grounds to ensure trawlers were sticking to regulations.

However, 12 months later she was later deemed too important to UK defence to be disposed of; in November 2018 the Secretary of State announced that she would return to the Fleet.

Which she did last summer following a refit and regeneration. It’s the first time a Royal Navy vessel has been brought back to life since the Falklands conflict in 1982.

HMS Severn’s primary role in her second life is a combination of navigation training, protection of UK waters and fishery protection.

Since returning to active service she has conducted six Fleet Navigator Officer Courses and one Specialist Navigator Course, training over 50 navigators including international students from Chile and New Zealand.

The service – attended by friends, families, affiliates and senior naval officers – is akin to a ‘christening’ for warships, blessing Severn and all who serve in her.

Commander Philip Harper, Commanding Officer HMS Severn said, “Bringing Severn back from the dead has been an amazing experience and commissioning here alongside Belfast, with both of us in our World War II camouflage, is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and dedication.”

Councillor Jane Mudd, Leader of Newport City Council, HMS Severn’s affiliated city said, “Newport has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the Royal Navy, and we were very disappointed when HMS Severn’s tenure was to end. 

“For her to be back in service and her affiliation with the city reinstated is excellent news. We look forward to celebrating with the ship, her Captain and crew.”

Built in Southampton by Vosper Thorneycroft, HMS Severn is the ninth ship to bear the name and after her launch in December 2002 was commissioned into the Royal Navy in July 2003.

At 80 metres long and displacing nearly 2,000 tonnes, she has a top speed of 20 knots and a range of 5,500 nautical miles.

With a crew of approximately 45 sailors, the ship regularly rotates one third of her crew allowing her to be available for operations up to 320 days of the year. 

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