The Borough of Scunthorpe has had a long association with the armed services, during World War 2 the town sponsord a Spitfire aircraft in 1943, two years earlier in 1941 the town adopted HMS Vanity during Warship Week in December 1941. HMS Vanity was a 1,090 destroyer built at Dalmuir and had a length of 312ft, beam 29ft 6ins. After the war on, 4th March 1947, the destroyer was sold and broken up at Brunton, Grangemouth. A commemorative plaque was present to the town by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty which Scunthorpe museum later gained.
Arguably the most famous warship adopted by the town was the HMS Ariadne.
The HMS Ariadne F72 was a Leander class frigate built by Yarrow shipbuilders of Scotstoun. Its keel was laid down on 1st November 1969, launched on 10th September 1971 and commissioned 10th February 1973.
Ariadne was formally adopted by Scunthorpe Borough Council on 8th March 1973. A formal ceremony was held which saw the town’s first citizen, Mayor Councillor Wilf Wilkinson travel down to Plymouth to represent the borough council.
In the year of her commission, Ariadne undertook a Fishery Protection Patrol during the Second Cod War with Iceland. In 1974 Ariadne, in company with Fife (FOF2 embarked), Scylla, Danae, Londonderry, Tidespring, Tarbatness made a nine month deployment to the Far East. Ariadne also participated in Biera Patrol.
In 1976, Ariadne completed a refit and the following year took part in the annual Group Deployment, visiting a variety of ports in South America and West Africa, as well as performing naval exercises.
Ariadne was intended for modernisation, which would have included the removal of her one 4.5-in Mk.6 gun, which would have been replaced by the Exocet anti-ship missile, as well as the addition of the Sea Wolf missile, but the 1981 Defence Review by the defence minister John Nott, cancelled the modernisation for Ariadne.
In 1981 Ariadne became the West Indies Guard Ship and, while there, performed a variety of duties in that region.
Ariadne came out of refit in Rosyth Dockyard, Fife, Scotland, in 1989 and replaced HMS Juno in the Dartmouth Training Squadron. In 1990, in consort with HM ships Bristol and Minerva, she took part in Endeavour ’90, a six-month circumnavigation of the globe. During this deployment she travelled 500,000 miles and was one of the first Royal Navy warships to visit Dutch Harbour, in the Aleutian Islands, since Captain James Cook landed there in HM Bark Endeavour.
In Scunthorpe, beauty contests were held to find Miss Ariadne with the winner being declared the sailors sweatheart.
The local Sea Cadets have also had association with the Ariadne, the bases, firstly on High Street East and then at Silica Nature Park, have been named after the frigate.
In 1984 there was much pomp and ceremony as the Ariadne’s crew were awarded the Freedom of the Town of Scunthorpe. The crew stood for inspection by the Mayor, Councillor Brenda Kirk, in Church Square before parading up Scunthorpe High Street to a Civic Reception at The Baths Hall.
The ships crew also played a part in the official opening of the Scunthorpe Leisure Centre in 1984 alongside former Scunthorpe United player and England legend Kevin Keegan.
In 1987 Ariadne joined the 6th Frigate Squadron of the Royal Navy but 5 year later was decommissioned in May 1992.
Prior to its decommissioning, an anchor from HMS Ariadne was presented to the Borough of Scunthorpe Council at a ceremony which took place outside the Civic Centre on 6th April 1992, the anchor still stands on the entry road today. The ships bell was also presented and was afforded a prominent spot outside the council chamber.
After decommissioning the ship was sold to the Chilean Navy later that year, it was renamed General Baquedano. She was decommissioned from the Chilean Navy in December 1998 and sunk as target practice in 2004.