Royal Navy in Ipswich
Ipswich has historically had strong links with the Royal Navy and, whilst it may not have been as strong as the likes of Portsmouth or Chatham, it is and has been a key port town. In the 18th century, warships and trading East Indiamen merchant vessels were built in the town’s shipyards - press gangs roamed the docks “recruiting” for ‘Nelson’s Navy’ and sailors billeted in the town’s inns, taverns and brothels.
The history of the Royal Navy in Ipswich over the last century goes back to First World War submarines being repaired in the town. Then during the Second World War, armed trawlers protected merchants and the fishing fleets operating from the port and east coast. Since then the town’s links to British naval vessels has lessened but has never been forgotten. Visits by the Royal Navy occurred many times after the Second World War, including the submarine HMS Opossom and the frigate HMS Ariadne in the 1970s. Occasions still remembered by those that experienced them first hand.
It was in the 1990’s that one Royal Navy vessel won the heart of the town; HMS Grafton, an anti-submarine warfare frigate visited in 2006 before being decommissioned. The last visit by a Royal Navy warship was the Minehunter HMS Quorn in 2014. Its complement marched through the town with the Freedom of the Borough and was welcomed by various naval associations on the quayside next to the University of Suffolk’s James Hehir Building.
However, due to unfortunate budget cuts in the Royal Navy, HMS Quorn has been decommissioned as of December 2017.
Who knows what the future looks like for the link Ipswich has with the Royal Navy? We may not have the new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers sail under the Orwell Bridge and to the port, like HMS Grafton. However, I’m certain that the lock gates will stay open for any Royal Navy vessel again. Ipswich, like many towns around the country, is keen, I’m sure, to keep its historic and current links with our armed forces. Especially due to the closeness and fondness much of the town has for the likes of HMS Grafton and HMS Quorn and the brave men and women that serve and have served on all Royal Navy vessels.