Every good thing comes to an end
Described as a “light cruiser” by Janes and others at the time, the Type 82 RN destroyer, HMS Bristol (D23), when ordered in 1963, was pretty impressive for a tin can, weighing in at 7,100-tons. For reference, this was almost twice the size of the Daring-class destroyers that preceded her or the Charles F. Adams-class DDGs under construction at the time for the U.S., West Germany, and Australia.
Further, the previous HMS Bristol afloat had been a Town-class light cruiser during the Great War, so the label of cruiser seemed to fit, although the admirals no doubt thought the “destroyer” descriptor would help provide a modicum of camouflage from the bean counters.
However, the Admiralty in the end never saw money for more of the Type 82s– or the large carriers they were to protect– and Bristol was to be the sole ship of her class.
The follow-on Type 42 destroyers were much smaller vessels with aluminum superstructures, akin to the Adams and Darings– only even more slight. Tragically, two early Type 42s, Sheffield and Coventry, were sent to the bottom in 1982 after suffering from Argentine airstrikes. Debating whether larger and more capable Type 82s in the same position would have survived is academic, but it does make you wonder.
Bristol was in the Falklands too and served as Task Force flagship after the carriers left for Portsmouth once Port Stanley fell.
Soon after, her days with the fleet were numbered and she was paid off in 1991 after 18 years of frontline service.
Since 1993, she has been docked at Whale Island, Portsmouth, and used as a floating training and accommodation ship both for RN personnel and youth groups like the Sea Cadets.
“Hosting up to 17,000 visitors, including Sea Cadets, annually for 50 weeks a year, she provides the closest thing to a sea-going experience without leaving port,” notes the RN.
Now, after filling that role for 27 years, the Sea Cadets noted last week that: “HMS Bristol will no longer be with us after the end of 2020.”
Last refit in 2010 for a ten-year lifespan extension, her hull is deemed by the RN to not be worth the pounds these days.