Surgeon Rear Admiral Ralph Curr, the UK National Defence Association's south-west president, said: 'The Navy has got down to a critical mass, the bare minimum.
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Last November, minesweepers HMS Cottesmore and HMS Dulverton were given to Lithuania for free.
The Ministry of Defence refused to say why no money changed hands, insisting the arrangement was 'commercially sensitive'.
It was a conversation that, even now, Peter and Murium Green find difficult to believe ever actually took place.
Farid Hinds, a minister for tourism on the Caribbean island of Tobago, had turned up at their home in Somerset bearing gifts – an ornament featuring a miniature steel drum and a brightly patterned sarong.