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AUCTIONED to the highest bidder, dragged by tug thousands of miles, beached then ripped to pieces on oil soaked sands.

It is sadly a fate most British warships not sold-on to overseas navies suffer.

Recent years have seen most of the once numerous Type 42 destroyers end up that way, their hulls broken-up on the shores of the Aegean Sea in Turkey. More high profile warships have gone like Falklands veteran aircraft carrier Invincible and her sister ship the once mighty Ark Royal were sold to the same Turkish company based near the port of Izmir.

The Turks to a good job, working quickly to convert warships, cargo vessels, ferries, liners and just about anything else that floats into smelting metal. They observe international safety and environmental standards and account for every last scrap of material they get from the ships. Next time you head east and see concrete buildings with rusting re-enforcement rods poking out of their top floors, you might be looking at HMS Ark Royal, HMS Glasgow, or HMS Cumberland.

It took the firm tasked with recycling Ark Royal about eight months to do the job. Like other ships at the yard, she was beached by the bow and with chains inserted in her hull she was cut away and dragged further up the beach. Her entrails, machinery, gearing, shafts and stern plates being the last pieces to be trucked away to a blast furnace.

Last year three of the four Batch III Type 22 Frigates were sold to Turkey for what the MoD calls “recycling” rather than scrapping. The remaining vessel, HMS CORNWALL was not part of that deal. Instead she was sold to a company based in Swansea Docks in South Wales.

See the pictures of the recycling process by clicking the link below.

They took an almost clinical approach to this old warship’s destruction.

Floated into a dock which was then drained, they painstakingly dismantled Cornwall piece by piece almost de-constructing her in a reverse of the building process conducted on the River Clyde a quarter of a century before.

Here is a video of her last hours afloat

Not every ship can be sunk as a target or scuttled as an artificial reef. Ship recycling is for most vessels the inevitable end.

The clean and efficient way Cornwall was dealt with has to be one of the most dignified ends for any warship in recent years.

With the old aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious looking increasingly likely to end her days in a recycling yard, the big question is where she will be sent. Death on the beach, or dismantling in a drydock?

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