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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 November, 2003, 09:33 GMT
Former crew visit reef warship
Former crew on board Scylla
Many people with links with the vessel visited for one last time
Former crew members of a retired Royal Navy warship which is to be turned into Europe's first artificial diving reef have visited the vessel for the final time.

About 120 ex-crew members and dockyard workers with links to the Leander-class frigate HMS Scylla visited the vessel at Plymouth's Devonport Dockyard on Saturday.

The 2,500-tonne vessel has been bought by Plymouth's National Marine Aquarium (NMA) for about 200,000 with funding from the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA) to be sunk off Cornwall and colonised by sea life.

The ship, the last of her kind to be built at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth in the late 1960s, arrived back in the city earlier this month from Portsmouth after months of negotiations.

HMS Scylla
A Leander Class Frigate with a general and anti-submarine role
Built in the late 1960s
Weighs 2,500-tonnes
113 metres in length
The ship was recommended for disposal in 1991
She was decommissioned in December 1993
Similar vessels have been placed on the seabed in Canada, Australia and New Zealand
The vessel was taken out of active service in 1993 and has been used as a training facility in Portsmouth since then.

She is now to undergo preparation work to make her safe for divers and the underwater environment before she is scuttled off Whitsand Bay in Cornwall.

Among the visitors to the Scylla was her last commanding officer, Captain Mike Booth, plus shipwrights, surveyors and artificers.

Captain Booth said: "I think this would be a very fitting end to her.

"It would take an awful lot of work to get her into any shape for tourists to come on board.

"But if they're going to put her at the bottom of the sea she won't need another lick of paint and she can still be enjoyed."

Melanie Cowie of the NMA said the group toured the ship's sleeping quarters, wardroom and operations room.

HMS Scylla back in Plymouth
HMS Scylla is due to be scuttled off Cornwall in April 2004
She said: "It was a very moving, touching day. People were very excited about the Scylla's future and some have decided to take diving lessons so they will be able to see her next stage."

After she is sunk, the Scylla will sit on the seabed around one mile offshore, where she is expected to attract recreational divers from around the world.

She is due to be sunk in April 2004, after which it is expected she will help generate 1m a year for the local economy.

Former warships have already been sunk to create diving reefs off Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but this will be the first of its kind in Europe.

Experts from Canada are currently in Plymouth to advise contractors on how to prepare the vessel for sinking.

The BBC's Lucie Fisher
"It was a nostalgic if somewhat surreal trip down memory lane."

Former crew to visit reef ship
28 Nov 03  |  Devon
Reef ship clean-up starts
10 Nov 03  |  Devon
Reef vessel arrives in city
08 Nov 03  |  Devon
Vessel to be sunk for reef
14 Oct 03  |  Devon

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