The unique Royal Mail Ship, RMS St Helena, will depart on a final voyage (268) from the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena on Saturday, 10 February, having dutifully served for the past 27 years. The island, a UK Overseas Territory located 1200 miles off the west coast of Africa could only be reached by the ocean-going passenger-cargo ship service, until commercial flights began operating last October, following completion of an airport.
There are two other ships that still carry the legacy ‘Royal Mail’ designation, however the uniqueness of RMS St Helena, is because the 6,767 gross tonnage ship, is the only remaining Royal Mail Ship contracted by the UK's postal service to carry mail across the seas.
Preparations to bid farewell to the RMS are ready with a working group comprising of representatives from St Helena Line, the RMS, SHG, St Helena Tourism, Solomon & Company (St Helena) Plc and Legislative Council.
The program of events has been put together and started with the RMS in Cape Town, South Africa. The ship hosted a cocktail party onboard for invited guests before and left on her last voyage from Cape Town on Wednesday, 24 January. The Cape Town Caledonian Pipe Band, dignitaries and others waved goodbye to the vessel.
Director of St Helena Line, Mrs. Kedell Worboys MBE, presented Captain Adam Williams with a 27ft ‘paying off’ pennant, to mark the 27 years’ service of the RMS St Helena. The pennant was flown from the RMS mast as she set sail from Cape Town.
During the RMS’ visit to Ascension Island on Saturday, 3 February, the ship will host a cocktail/drinks party for invited guests. The RMS arrives at St Helena on Tuesday, 6 February, when the on-Island activities for her farewell begin.
A service of thanksgiving will be held at St James’ Church for RMS crew – this will conclude with a procession to the Sea Front. Members of the public will be invited to attend. A ‘memory wall’ will be placed in various locations throughout the week for members of the public to share their memories of the RMS.
The main celebrations will take place on Friday, 9 February, with an RMS Open Day and celebrations on the Sea Front. Celebrations will include an exciting performance by the RMS Amateur Dramatics Society and live music by various local bands.
The public will have a chance to say goodbye to the RMS crew on Saturday, 10 February, when all crew members in their uniforms proceed from the Grand Parade in Jamestown, through the Arch, making their way along the Sea Front before returning to the ship.
The RMS will depart St Helena at 4pm on Saturday. The 27ft paying off pennant will be walked from the Sea Front to the bottom steps where Kedell will once again present the pennant to Captain Williams. Members of the public will be allowed access to the bottom steps to witness this and to say a final farewell.
It is planned for a flotilla of boats to circle the harbor and the RMS St Helena before she pulls up anchor. Captain Williams will then sail towards Buttermilk Point before turning around for a steam past the harbor, allowing all ashore to view the RMS for one last time decked out in full dress and to view the 27ft paying off pennant. The RMS will then stop at Lemon Valley where her flags will be taken down before continuing her onward journey to Cape Town.