by Ryan Harrison
THE Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Newcastle, a veteran of the seas after 30 years in service, will sail into Palma tomorrow (Monday) for a routine courtesy call.

Dubbed the “Geordie Gunboat” because of her close links to her home town, the ship's appearance in Palma could be her last after cut-backs announced by the Ministry of Defence have earmarked the Type 42 Destroyer for the defence scrap heap.

The Newcastle's 280 crew were probably told of the decision on Wednesday.
Her Commanding Officer Jeremy Blunden and crew will be in Majorca for some rest and recuperation after helping train new NATO units for upcoming operational tasks.

The Newcastle commanded Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian frigates and Romanian corvettes and a Bulgarian support ship.
The British Consulate has also organised some sporting activities for the crew during their stay in Palma.
The vessel is 125 metres in length and capable of 30 knots, with an armament including two triple anti-submarine torpedos, two 20mm close range machine guns, and two twin “Sea Dart” and “Phalanx” missile launchers, designed specifically for air defence.

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 sunk during the Falklands War. The HMS Newcastle's recent service has included involvment in counter drug operations which have resulted in a number of successful interceptions.

She was also called to help with the humanitarian crisis in Monserrat in 1998, following the volcanic eruption. And in 1999 the ship formed part of the deployment to the Gulf. More recently, she has had a period in dry dock while the ship's Company was involved in Operation Fresco, which provided emergency cover throughout the UK after last year's industrial action from the Fire Brigade's Union.

The HMS Newcastle, along with her sisters, HMS Cardiff and HMS Glasgow, will be pensioned off by the end of next year, costing 1'500 jobs, as a result of Defence Minister Geoff Hoon's defence cuts.


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