BRING BACK HMS SHEFFIELD: Big names get behind campaign for new ship

The first HMS Sheffield, nicknamed the 'Shiny Sheff'
The first HMS Sheffield, nicknamed the 'Shiny Sheff'
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The campaign for a new HMS Sheffield is gaining momentum, after securing the backing of a string of top businesses and other organisations.

Sheffield's lord mayor Councillor Anne Murphy is leading efforts to get one of the next generation of Type 26 warships named after the city, in recognition of the region's proud naval tradition.

How the new fleet of submarine-hunters will look (photo: MoD)

How the new fleet of submarine-hunters will look (photo: MoD)

If successful it would become the fourth HMS Sheffield, with its predecessors - nicknamed the Shiny Sheff due to the amount of stainless steel on the first incarnation - having between them amassed an impressive 13 battle honours.

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The first three of the new submarine-hunters have already been named after Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff, but naming rights for the remaining five are still up for grabs and campaigners in Sheffield believe the city has the strongest claim.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, the city's universities, aerospace giant Boeing, manufacturer Footprint and Sheffield Sea Cadets are among a raft of organisations which have written to support Coun Murphy's case.

John Hayward, president of the chamber, said the city's business community was proud to support the Royal Navy through its products and services.

Sheffield's lord mayor, Councillor Anne Murphy

Sheffield's lord mayor, Councillor Anne Murphy

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"It would be wonderful for there to be a fourth 'Shiny Sheff' named after what is still Britain's 'Steel City'," he added.

Made in Sheffield, which represents more than 350 manufacturing firms in the region, said he had already received numerous offers to help produce parts for a fourth HMS Sheffield.

"The skills here in the city mean not only could she carry the name but that she could also be a floating example of the excellence in engineering to be found here in Sheffield," he wrote.

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Sheffield Sea Cadets, whose membership has grown to over 100 in recent years, said it had enjoyed a very close relationship with the previous three HMS Sheffields, upon which a number of its current training officers had served.

Branch chairman Councillor Terry Fox wrote: "The commissioning of a new HMS Sheffield would indeed be a great honour for the city of Sheffield and the Sheffield Sea & Royal Marines Cadets."

And Professor Keith Ridgeway, executive dean of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, said firms in the city had a long history of equipping the Royal Navy, from providing tools used to make wooden ships like HMS Victory, through manufacturing armour plating for the Dreadnought battleships, to supplying much of the high-tech gear used today.

"I am sure that naming one of the new frigates HMS Sheffield would mean a great deal to the people of Sheffield," he added.

Coun Murphy recently met Commodore Phil Waterhouse, who commands the Royal Navy in Northern England, to press the case for a fourth HMS Sheffield.

She said he had appeared impressed by the level of backing from within the city, but she claimed more support was 'desperately' needed to prevent Sheffield being 'pipped to the post' by another city.

She added that the prospect had been raised of Sheffield being affiliated with a ship which did not bear its name - a compromise she claimed Sheffielders would find hard to accept.

Only three of the new Type 26 frigates have so far been ordered, with the contract for the remainder not expected to be signed until at least 2020. It is understood no further ships are likely to be named until after that order is completed.

Rumours have been circulating that the Ministry of Defence now only plans to have six of the submarine-hunters built.

But an MoD spokesman said it had declared its intent to order a further five and that remained the intention. He added that the names of the other ships would be announced 'when appropriate'.

The first HMS Sheffield served during the Second World War and was involved in the sinking of the Bismarck. The second was famously destroyed during the Falklands War, with the loss of 20 crew, and the third was decommissioned and sold in 2002.