By Ryan Harrison
THE Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Newcastle, currently the longest serving of its fleet still active, is due to dock in the port of Palma next week.
Dubbed the “Geordie Gunboat” because of her close links to her home town, HMS Necwastle's recent service has included involvment in counter drug operations which have resulted in a number of successful busts.

Her Commanding Officer Jeremy Blunden and crew are looking forward to a little rest and recuperation in Majorca after serving in the Standard Naval Force in the Mediterranean recently. The British Consulate has organised sporting activities for the 287 crew aboard during their stay in Palma. At 125 metres in length and capable of 30 knots, the ship's armament includes two triple anti-submarine torpedos, two 20mm close range machine guns, and two twin “Sea Dart” and “Vulcan Phalanx” missile launchers designed specifically for air defence. The HMS Newcastle celebrated its 30th birthday last year, and is the eighth Royal Navy ship to bear the name Newcastle.

Built on the Tyne in 1973 by Swan Hunter Ltd., she was launched and ready for action two years later. Her crew boast that she is the longest serving of the surviving Royal Navy Type 42 Destroyers in operation, two of which, the HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry sister ships to the Newcastle, were both sunk during the Falklands War.

The “Geordie Gunboat” is now earmarked to be scrapped in the government's latest defence cuts. As well as involvement in counter drug operations around the world, the ship was also called to help with the humanitarian crisis in Montserrat in 1998 following the volcanic eruption. And in 1999 the ship formed part of the deployment to the Gulf during the Kosovo conflict. More recently, she has had a period in the dock while the ship's Company was involved in Operation Fresco, which provided emergency cover throughout the UK after industrial action from the Fire Brigade's Union (FBU). Personnel from all three armed forces stepped in for the fire service last year, using Green and Red Goddesses instead of fire trucks. HMS Newcastle and all other forces will be on standby this summer after the leader of the FBU recently set 30 July as the deadline for a ballot on industrial action. He said unless the pay row is resolved by then the strike will go ahead.


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