Royal Navy’s smallest ship arrives back in Plymouth for the final time


The Royal Navy’s smallest vessel, HMS Gleaner, entered Plymouth on Tuesday afternoon for the final time – having supported its largest ever ship.

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 in mist and rain 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, also termed a motor launch, conducted final survey operations in Portsmouth supporting the newly-commissioned aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The launch 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 especially 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 operated much further afield during her life, from the Channel Islands, to The Netherlands and even Switzerland, a first for the Royal Navy.

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