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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 21:15 GMT
Belfast warship sails into retirement
The Royal Navy's oldest warship: HMS Fearless
The Royal Navy's oldest warship, which was built in Belfast almost 40 years ago, has made its final voyage.

HMS Fearless is to be decommissioned after a career which included the Falklands War and a James Bond movie.

The navy's last surviving steam powered warship was launched from the Harland and Wolff at Queen's Island in Belfast just before Christmas in 1963.

Launch: HMS Fearless set sail from Belfast Lough in 1963

A distinguished career lay ahead.

The ship played a key role in the Falklands conflict in 1982.

The first troops disembarked from the ship in an operation which saw the start of British forces retaking the islands from Argentina.

More recently, the ship has completed a seven month deployment in the Middle East in support of the war against terrorism.

On Monday, a triumphant homecoming for Fearless and its 550 crew was held at Portsmouth.

Floating museum

The ship has survived two previous attempts to send it to the scrapheap but now it is being decommissioned six months early to save the Ministry of Defence 2m in running costs.

Between the conflicts, the vessel has enjoyed a touch of glamour.

Fearless featured in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me and even now there is a campaign to keep it in the limelight as a floating museum.

Whatever the future may hold, the sun has set on the seagoing life of another of Belfast shipyard's vessels.

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