Workers have walked out of the Appledore Shipyard gates for the final time today (Friday, March 15) to mark the end of more than 200 years of shipbuilding on the Torridge.
GMB union member Jake Mclean said it was ‘heart-breaking’ to see the shutters down and everything locked up as the remaining staff still at the yard left it for the last time at the 12.30pm hooter.
Of the 200 workers, it is understood a small number of office and maintenance staff were the only ones still at the yard.
The rest of the workers still employed by Babcock now have to make the journey each day to its Devonport facility.
The North Devon yard has built almost 200 vessels since it opened in 1855 and is absolutely crucial to the South West economy and British shipbuilding.
GMB said Babcock had not allowed Appledore workers now at Devonport to return and walk out of the yard with their colleagues for a final time today.
The First In Last Out pub in Bideford – run by a former Appledore worker - is staging a farewell party for more than 100 people tomorrow (Saturday, March 16).
Jake Mclean, GMB representative at Appledore, said: “This is a very sad day. Walking around this historic shipyard this morning seeing all the shutters down and everything locked up is heart-breaking.
“Babcock hasn’t even let the workers from Devonport come back today to walk out one final time. That’s a pretty cruel blow. At the sound of the final hooter at 12.30 a proud shipbuilding industry and workforce will fall silent for the last time.
“I am privileged and proud to be able to say that I have worked here for the past seven years.
“Appledore has been part of the fabric of North Devon for hundreds of years – but thanks to cut throat business plans and inaction by Conservatives, today it will die.”
Earlier this week the union accused Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox of a ‘dereliction of duty’ as the famous shipyard looks set to close in his constituency.
It claimed he was ‘so busy over Brexit’ he had forgotten hos own constituents.
But in a statement, Mr Cox said: “I regret deeply the closure of the Appledore Shipyard. Torridge has a proud history of shipbuilding and preventing its closure has been my top priority as a local Member of Parliament.
“I have consulted extensively with Government ministers from different departments of state to explore what assistance could be given to the owner of the yard.
“Residents and the workforce of the yard will recall that just before the closure was announced the Secretary of State for Defence made significant and substantial offers of assistance to Babcock designed to support its future, following intervention by myself and Peter Heaton Jones MP.
“Since the disappointing decision taken by Babcock, I have engaged in a series of meetings, including with the Secretary of State for Business and the Minister for Transport, to explore serious and workable plans presented to maintaining operations at the yard.
“While the Government will do what it reasonably can to assist, it is a fond illusion to believe the Government alone could maintain future operations at the yard. As we have seen, the Government’s offer to Babcock was not alone enough to sustain the Yard commercially.
“What is needed is a credible operator for the yard and to that end I have been collaborating with the SW Business Taskforce, Torridge District Council, the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Transport in the hope that one can be found.”