HMS Exeter (D89)

HMS Exeter was a Type 42 destroyer, the fifth ship of the Royal Navy to be named Exeter, after the city of Exeter in Devon. The vessel fought in the Falklands War and the first Gulf War, she was scrapped in 2009.

HMS Exeter in the River Thames, sailing downstream past Limehouse, London.
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Exeter
Builder: Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Laid down: 22 July 1976
Launched: 25 April 1978
Sponsored by: Lady Joan Mulley
Commissioned: 19 September 1980
Decommissioned: 27 May 2009[1]
Homeport: Portsmouth
Motto: Semper Fidelis ("Always faithful")
Honours and
  • Falkland Islands 1982
  • Kuwait 1991.
Fate: Scrapped
General characteristics
Class and type: Type 42 destroyer
Displacement: 4,820 tonnes
Length: 125 metres (410 ft)
Beam: 14.3 metres (47 ft)
  • COGOG (Combined Gas or Gas) configuration, 2 shafts
  • 2 x Rolls Royce Olympus TM3B Gas Turbines (25000shp each) and 2 x Rolls Royce Tyne RM1C Gas Turbines (5340bhp each) producing 36 MW (48,000 hp)
Speed: 28.7 knots (53.2 km/h; 33.0 mph)
Range: 1900Nm at full speed. 4200Mn at optimal speed
Complement: 287
Time to activate: 4 hours
Armour: none
Aircraft carried: Lynx HMA8
Notes: Batch 2A version of Type 42 Destroyer

Design and construction

Exeter was the first of the slightly modified 'Batch 2' Type 42 destroyers. This was a mid-build consideration with her later sister ship, Southampton, sporting a similar weapons and sensors upgrade with no discernible hull modifications. The weapons and sensors fit was the first grouping of the 1022, 992Q and 1006 radars in a British warship. Exeter emerged from build with her hull coated in an experimental vivid bright blue co-polymer, anti-fouling boot topping. It was available at the time in several colours, none of which was correspondent with accepted Royal Naval paint schemes (brick red below the waterline and black boot topping) so blue was chosen. The vessel's first docking period on her return from Operation Corporate saw the hull returned to its brick red/black paint scheme.

The ship was built by Swan Hunter, and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 19 September 1980.[2] In 1981 London, fired the last Mk 1 Sea Slug missiles to allow Exeter's new radars to fully integrate and align the far superior Sea Dart missile against, high and low missile targets.

Early in her first commission, Exeter had a turquoise hull on and below the waterline; this was an experimental co-polymer paint which was only available in a few non-standard colours at the time. The light-blue 'boot topping' visible on the waterline was eventually repainted to standard brick red/black during her first docking period, after the Falklands War.

Operational history


The ship saw service in the Falklands War, deploying from the Caribbean after the loss of Sheffield.[2] During the conflict, Exeter shot down three Argentine aircraft (two A-4C Skyhawks on 30 May, and a Learjet 35A on 7 June; all with Sea Dart missiles). She may also have shot down an Exocet missile on 30 May, the original 1982 claim that it was taken by a 4.5-inch shell from a Type 21 frigate appearing oversold.[2][3]


Exeter also served in Operation Granby during the 1991 Gulf War,[2] under the command of Captain Nigel Essenhigh. Among her roles was the air defence of the US battleships bombarding enemy positions.[2]

In autumn 1998, she emerged from a major refit in Rosyth dockyard. After post refit trials she undertook Operational Sea Training in the spring of 1999 and a Joint Maritime Course with Sea Dart high seas firings in June of that year. September 1999 saw her deploy on Armilla patrol. She was alongside in Dubai for the Millennium and remained on station until relieved by a large Task Group led by the aircraft carrier Illustrious in February 2000, arriving back at Portsmouth the following month.


As the last remaining Royal Navy ship in commission to have served in the Falklands, Exeter attended the 25th anniversary commemorations of the Falklands War in Newquay, Cornwall in 2007.[4]

In May 2008, Exeter visited London to provide the centerpiece for the launch of a new James Bond novel;[5] the day before Devil May Care was launched, the press party to publicise the launch of the book included Tuuli Shipster bringing copies up the River Thames on a speedboat for a party on Exeter, while two Lynx helicopters circled the ship.[6]


On 30 July 2008, Exeter was placed in a state of 'extended readiness' at HMNB Portsmouth, until being decommissioned there on 27 May 2009.[1]

In early 2010, Exeter was used to assist with the training of new naval base tugs. She was put up for sale by auction on 28 March 2011[7] and finally towed away to be scrapped at Leyal Ship Recycling in Turkey on 23 September 2011, provoking some criticism from former crew members who were upset that the Ministry of Defence had apparently failed to inform them of the ship's fate.[8]

Commanding officers

19801982Captain Jeremy Dreyer RN
19821984Captain Hugh Balfour RN[9]
1985 1987 Commander Geoffrey Billson RN
1989 1991 Captain Nigel Essenhigh RN
1991 1993 Captain John Cartwright RN
19982000Commander Paul Bennett RN
20002002Commander Chris Richards RN



  1. "HMS Exeter: last Falklands ship retires from service". The Telegraph. 27 May 2009. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  2. "Flash Traffic: Falklands Veteran Goes for Scrap". The Navy. Navy League of Australia. 74 (1): 19. January 2012. ISSN 1322-6231.
  3. "Argentine Aircraft Lost". Falklands War 1982. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  4. BBC News
  5. Lawless, Jill (27 May 2008). "James Bond returns in Devil May Care". The Associated Press.
  6. Faulks, Sebastian (28 May 2008). "Notebook: This is one James Bond case that I couldn't crack". The Daily Telegraph. London. p. 24.
  7. "Carrier HMS Ark Royal put up for auction on MoD website". BBC News. 28 March 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  8. "HMS Exeter's quiet exit angers Falklands vets". The News. 24 September 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  9. Dan van der Vat. "Obituaries - Hugh Balfour". the Guardian.
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