Royal Navy mine hunter, HMS Penzance, will make a visit to Cornwall this weekend, as she sails into Falmouth for a three day visit.
Arriving today Friday June 6, the ship was originally scheduled to sail into the Wet Dock of Penzance and to throw down her gangway to the public on Saturday June 7.
Unfortunately, with bad weather conditions forecast, Commanding officer lieutenant Commander Nicholas Unwin had to make the decision to sail into County Wharf, Falmouth, instead to ensure safe passage for the ship.
As the ship will now be docked at County Wharf and for "reasons outside Commander Unwin’s control", the ship will not be able to open to the public. However, HMS Penzance will still provide tours for local schools and Sea Cadets from Penzance on Saturday.
Also on the agenda for the weekend is a visit by local VIPs and affiliates of the ship who have been invited for a reception and capability demonstration on board on Friday evening.
A number of the ship’s company have been invited as guests of Penzance Town Council and the Mayor of Penzance, councillor David Nebesnuick to a civic reception at the Union Hotel in honour of HMS Penzance on Saturday evening.
This has been followed by an invite from the Penzance Royal British Legion to join them at their clubhouse in Bread Street for drinks and entertainment.
On Sunday June 10, the visit takes a more sombre turn when the commanding officer and representatives from the ship’s company will join with the mayor and local people for a memorial service. This is in memory of 90 crew members who died on the third HMS Penzance on August 24 in 1940 during World War II when she was torpedoed in the Western Atlantic. The memorial was laid in June 2012 by Penzance Town Council.
Commanding Officer Unwin is very keen to maintain the strong link with the third HMS Penzance and said: “The third Penzance was not much larger than the present ship of this name and it is hard to imagine the conditions and weather that these small ships endured while operating on the Atlantic convoys. I am very pleased that we are able to pause here and pay our respects to those that went before us and paid the ultimate price.
“It is hugely disappointing that the weather conditions have prevented me from bringing the ship into the heart of Penzance but the ship’s company and I know we will still be able to reaffirm our strong links between the town and the ship while berthing the ship in Falmouth. It also means I cannot open my ship to the visitors we had hoped to welcome on board and while the ship will be deployed as one of the UK’s forward deployed mine hunters in the Middle East for the next few years, I would hope on her return, the ship will be back once more.”
Mayor of Penzance, councillor David Nebesnuick, said “I am delighted that HMS Penzance is coming to Cornwall this year and that the crew are coming to Penzance. Their visits are always welcome to us as the ship has the freedom of the town. This year Commander Unwin will be visiting the memorial in Penlee Park to remember a previous HMS Penzance. I am very pleased that the ship and her crew will be with us to help celebrate our 400th Charter Anniversary. I wish Commander Unwin and the ship’s crew every success for their future deployment and I look forward to their safe return to Penzance in the future."
The ship HMS Penzance is one of seven Sandown class mine hunters and their role is to neutralise underwater threats and clear the sea-lanes for shipping. Five of the class usually make their ‘home’ at HMS Naval Base, Clyde, while two others are on permanent deployment in the Gulf, with the ships’ crews rotating during each deployment.
Built of glass reinforced plastic, the design ensures that the ship is extremely quiet and has a very low magnetic signature, essential when operating in a minefield.
Equipped with the latest precise navigation and manoeuvring systems, which allow it to "hover" over a fixed point and search for mines with a variable depth sonar to depths in excess of 200 metres of water, Penzance can also deploy her clearance divers or latest state of the art submersible to deal with mines or suspicious objects.
Launched by HRH Princess Michael of Kent on the 11 March 1997, the current HMS Penzance was commissioned on 14 May 1998 and is the fourth to bear the name.
HMS Penzance has had an extremely busy previous 12 months having departed Rosyth Royal dockyard in June 2013 after a 6 month refit period, and within 4 months, had completed trials, Sea Training, and deployed to the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 based in the Mediterranean. Penzance returned to the UK in time for Christmas and to prepare for deployment.
She is very proud of her Cornish links and affiliations, which include Penzance Town Council, Penlee Lifeboat, Penzance branch of the Royal British Legion and Penzance Sea Cadets.