ROYAL Mail Ship St Helena departed Tilbury this afternoon in an emotional farewell which featured a water salute from two tugs, cannon fire from Tilbury and an explosion of colourful confetti.
Heavy rain and the sound of distant thunder threatened to spoil the send off but the bad weather eased off just enough to allow spectators to watch as the last working Royal Mail ship set off.
RMS St Helena, conducting farewell voyages this year, arrived on the Thames on the 5th June and her stay included several days alongside HMS Belfast in the Upper Pool where she was visited by Princess Anne.
Late last week the ship moved back down to Tilbury where she was opened to ticketed visitors on Saturday.
The vessel has been a lifeline to St Helena for 26 years but is being retired with a new airport due to have come into operation although the £295million facility has had its opening postponed because of wind shear problems.
Photos of RMS St Helena's Farewell
Two Svitzer tugs assisted RMS St Helena away from Tilbury landing stage and then provided a water salute.
Svitzer Bootle fires water in to the air
The farewell took place on a grey, rainy afternoon.
Confetti is fired from cannon
People on the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry watch the spectacle
RMS ST Helena is expected to call at Tenerife before returning to St Helena
Video of RMS ST Helena's final farewell