It first traversed the seas 44 years ago as Royal Navy's HMS Andromeda
After traversing the seas for 44 years — first as the Royal Navy's HMS Andromeda from 1968 to November 1994 and in its current avatar as one of Indian Navy's First Training Squadron Ships, INS Krishna, from August 1995 — is set to sing its swan song. On Tuesday, it will embark on its last voyage, setting course for Mumbai from the Southern Naval Command's south jetty for a minor refit before being decommissioned later this year.
The news of the imminent retirement of the ‘Grey Mistress,' as she had been known in the Royal Navy, has indeed brought back dear memories in many ‘ex-HMS Andromeda shipmates' besides Indian Navy personnel who have served aboard INS Krishna (pennant number F 46). It comes at a time when the HMS Andromeda Association is planning a reunion of Andromeda veterans, about 400 worldwide, in the last week of February.
The last broad beam Leader-class frigate built by the Portsmouth Dockyard, Andromeda (the eighth bearing pennant number F 57) had weathered many storms in the ‘Beira Patrol,' a blockade in the Mozambique channel to prevent oil reaching Rhodesia (Zimbabwe); the last two ‘Cod wars' with Iceland over fishing rights when the frigate suffered damage resulting from collisions; the Falklands action when it was deployed on escort duty; and the ‘Armilla Patrol' in the Gulf for escort of oil tankers.
“All who served on the ship speak very highly of her as being the best ship they ever served on. It is sad to think that the ship will soon be paid off and then await a fate which is not as yet known,” Rick Matthews, chairman of the HMS Andromeda Association who had served on Andromeda from 1968 to 1971, wrote to The Hindu in an emotional mail.
The Andromeda community on Facebook also witnessed a surge of emotions, with many veteran British mariners even wondering if it was possible to reclaim the vessel and install it as a national monument at Portsmouth!
On hearing the news, John Howard, who had served aboard the vessel for three years from 1968 and later penned an ‘arresting' tome on it, e-mailed in five parts the digitised manuscript of the book containing fascinating accounts and anecdotes from the vessel's several deployments.
Mike Hill, who was the ship's supply officer, recalled a visit made to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1972. “I still have my tourist permit to purchase and consume alcoholic liquor within the State of Maharashtra from December 1 to 12 in 1972. I also remember a visit to a night club with our Indian Liaison Officer and was quite surprised to find the doors locked behind on entry. The only females seen thereafter were the strippers!!” he recalled in a lighter vein.
After it was retired from the Royal Navy in 1994, the ship got a new lease of life as INS Krishna when it was inducted into the Indian Navy in 1995.
“We were a little sceptical before buying it, but the ship has stood us in good stead catering to our cadet training requirements all this while,” said a senior naval functionary.
INS Krishna's involvement in thwarting piracy in the Eastern Arabian Sea last year was proof of its agility. The ship is currently captained by Commander Varun Singh, a marine commando who was conferred the Shaurya Chakra after a valiant counter terrorism operation in Jammu and Kashmir.