Despite a grey overcast afternoon in central London on Tuesday 07th June 2016 the RMS St Helena began her historical and final journey along London’s River Thames from Tilbury docks where she has been moored since Sunday 5th June 2016 after completing her last North bound two week voyage since departing St Helena as the Royal mail ship St Helena with 123 passengers on board.
Saints and members of the public with connections to St Helena from all over the UK gathered along the banks of the River and at London’s Tower Bridge to welcome and watched the RMS St Helena’s memorable moment as she passed under Tower Bridge at 16.45 (BST) making her way alongside of HMS Belfast where she will be moored until Friday 10th June.
Among the crowd gathered were onlookers, some whom had travelled from the South of England and as far as Aberdeen in Scotland. Also viewing the moment were some former crew members of the old and new RMS, one of them being Carl Stroud who had travelled to the UK from the Falkland Islands and who had incidentally served on board the RMS for nine years during her service to the Island.Many of the viewers watching from the river banks along with crew members on board witnessed what they all described as a touching and emotional moment as the RMS sailed along the Thames escorted by two tugs. “The RMS had been part our their lives for almost 26 years”
Audiences from around the world also watched live social media feeds such as face book, Instagram and twitter as the river journey unfolded. Crew members and others on board posted images and took selfies and posted them online as the RMS left Tilbury and made her journey towards the HMS Belfast. Jackie Leo the Ships Hotel Services Officer posted a final image to mark the journeys end with a selfie alongside of the HMS Belfast “what a wonderful evening”
During the time The RMS is moored alongside of the HMS Belfast she will host invited guests at promotional events on board to promote St Helena as a tourist destination, one of the highlights will be the visit of the Princess Royal who will attend a reception on the Wednesday, Matt Gillian a Michelin star top UK chef who lives in Hampshire will also be in on board for a promotional event. Matt who was born in the UK but has a St Helenian heritage as his mother was born and bought up on the Island. Matt was also a winner of the Great British Menu a BBC TV series that was aired on British TV late last year. British TV presenter Tim Wonnacott who visited St Helena earlier this year was also a guest at Wednesday’s reception.
ITV and other media organisations covered the story of the RMS on British television emphasising on the history of the ship and St Helena’s new era of air travel that is about to change the island forever. Captain Andrew Greentree the ship’s master spoke to BBC news about the life of the RMS and its important role to St Helena over the years, Jackie Leo said that St Helena is looking forward to international tourists arriving. Mrs Kedall Worboys, St Helena’s UK representative also spoke to the news in an emotional speech about how proud she was of the RMS and its crew that sailed on her over the years. The RMS will depart London at around 17.30 on Friday the 10th June and will make her way down the River Thames and return to the Tilbury Cruise Terminal where she will be opened to the public for viewing on prearranged tour tickets that were available online a few weeks ago. The RMS St Helena is scheduled to depart Tilbury at 16.00 on the Tuesday 14th June for St Helena.
The RMS will continue to serve as the lifeline to the South Atlantic Islands and is scheduled to continue its service until the end of September, sailing between Cape
Town, Ascension Island and St Helena. Originally the RMS was scheduled to be
decommissioned and sold in July of this year shortly after the St Helena Airport was due to open in May of this year, however due to the wind shear and safety concerns at the airport the life of the RMS has been extended with the hope that procedures are put in place to enable commercial flight operations soon from the islands airport.