UK: Royal Navy Warships Sail in London

Royal Navy Warships to Sail in London for Six-Day Visit

Three Royal Navy warships will sail up the River Thames this week for the start of a six-day visit to London. All three vessels are in the capital to support events surrounding the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest military campaign of the Second World War.

It will be an emotional moment for the ship’s company on board Type 42 destroyer, HMS Edinburgh, for she will sail up the Thames for the final time before her decommissioning later this year in Portsmouth.

She arrives at around 2pm on Tuesday, May 7 and will berth next to HMS Belfast in central London.

An hour earlier the same day, the first navy warship to arrive, minehunter HMS Blyth, will berth alongside Royal Naval Reserve unit HMS President at St Katherine’s Dock.

Completing the trio will be helicopter and commando carrier HMS Illustrious – which has a formal affiliation with the City of London – and she will be moored at Greenwich.

The 22,000-tonne carrier arrives at around 12.30pm on Wednesday, May 8 and her crew will throw down the gangway to the general public on both Saturday, May 11 (10am until 2pm) and Sunday, May 12 (10.30am until 2pm).

The Naval Regional Commander for Eastern England, Commodore Martin Atherton, said:

“I am delighted to welcome Her Majesty’s Ships Illustrious, Edinburgh and Blyth to London to launch the Royal Navy’s nationwide commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. HMS Illustrious will also be renewing her long-standing affiliation with the City of London.

“It is particularly poignant for HMS Edinburgh.

“She is the last of our Type 42 Destroyers and this will be her final visit to the capital, as she will shortly decommission after 30 years of sterling service to the Royal Navy.

“Her predecessor, a Town-class light cruiser, has a Battle Honour for her involvement in the long, perilous Atlantic campaign.

“HMS Illustrious will be open to visit by the general public during her stay in Greenwich.

“Details are available on the RN website or Facebook page, and I would hope that as many people as possible take this opportunity to go aboard and learn more about life in today’s Royal Navy.”

This month, the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA 70) will be culminate with a series of events in Liverpool. The city was home to the Western Approaches Command in the Second World War – it was from here that the struggle against the German U-boat was successfully directed.

The BOA70 commemorations are as follows: London during 8-13 May, Derry-Londonderry between 10-12 May, building up to the main event in Liverpool from 24-28 May.

  • In Derry-Londonderry, a Royal Navy ship visit is planned to support the dedication of a new memorial statue by the Royal Naval Association and a special wreath-laying ceremony.
  • Finally in Liverpool, up to 25 Royal Navy and international ship visits are planned in support of the city’s core commemoration day, Sunday 26 May, which includes a day-time Cathedral Service, a march through the city by current Naval and Merchant naval personnel as well as veterans, and a fly past of the Fleet Air Arm’s pride and joy, the Fairey Swordfish.

In London, the aim is to use the three Royal Navy ship visits, an Evensong Service at St Paul’s Cathedral, a Merchant Navy Memorial Service and a Charity fundraising dinner to raise awareness of the importance of the maritime community to the UK economy, with London as the political and financial centre.

The packed programme of events which the Royal Navy are supporting includes:

Tuesday May 7

1pm-2pm Arrival of HMS Blyth, HMS Edinburgh

Wednesday May 8

12.30pm Arrival of HMS Illustrious
2pm Master Mariners BOA Exhibition at HQS Wellington
5pm BOA70 Evensong Service at St Paul’s Cathedral
6pm Royal Navy Parade from St Paul’s to Mansion House
6.30pm City of London Reception at Mansion House

Thursday May 9

5.30pm Charity fundraising dinner on HMS Illustrious in aid of Seafarers UK and the Royal Navy / Royal Marines Charity

Friday May 10

12.15pm Ship’s company at Tower of London for Ceremony of the Dues

Saturday May 11

10am-2pm HMS Illustrious Open to Visitors at Greenwich
1pm Merchant Navy Memorial Service at Trinity Gardens
6pm Fly Navy Heritage Trust Reception and Dinner on HMS Illustrious

Sunday May 12

10.30am-2pm HMS Illustrious Open to Visitors at Greenwich

During the warships’ visits, there is also a host of recruitment events and ship tours organised for local community groups and schools and colleges, plus members of HMS Illustrious’ ship’s company will interact with many of their affiliate organisations in London.

All three ships are providing crew members to act as step liners and attend the St Paul’s commemorative event. On completion they will march to the Mansion House accompanied by the Plymouth Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.

Captain Martin Connell, the commanding officer of the City of London-affiliated HMS Illustrious, said:

“We are delighted to be in London for the Battle of the Atlantic commemorations.

“HMS Illustrious has a very close affiliation with the City which we will be aiming to strengthen further through a very busy programme of events.

“It is, however, a very poignant occasion and we look forward to welcoming onboard some of those who served through the longest and one of the most costly campaigns of the Second World War.”

Commander Nick Borbone, the commanding officer of HMS Edinburgh – which will leave her berth at HMS Belfast for her final sail down the River Thames at 4pm on Sunday, May 12 – said:

“My ship’s company is really looking forward to our visit to London and I am delighted that we can support the momentous occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

“This is something that resonates strongly with HMS Edinburgh, as one of her forebears played an important part in the campaign during WW2 and the ship is credited with the Atlantic Battle Honour as a result.

“HMS Edinburgh will also play a part in BOA events later in the month in Liverpool which will be a fitting finale prior to her decommissioning as the final Type 42 Destroyer and passing the baton to the hugely capable new generation of Type 45 Destroyers which are already deployed on operations.”

The pomp and spectacle of the Band of Royal Marines will also be a key feature over the visit, with music being played at St Paul’s, at Mansion House, at various ship’s receptions and at the Constable of the Dues event.

HMS Illustrious and HMS Blyth leave London on Monday, May 13 at 3.30pm and 4.45pm respectively.

Press Release, May 6, 2013; Image: Royal Navy