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Royal Navy warships descend on capital for commemorations

Royal Navy Media Release

HMS Edinburgh passes Greenwich (click on image to enlarge)Veteran destroyer HMS Edinburgh and giant helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious brought the capital to a halt as they glided down the River Thames. HMS Edinburgh is the last of the Type 42 destroyers and is on her first stop on a round-Britain farewell tour which ends nearly 30 years of service.

Watched by hundreds of people on both banks of the Thames, the Portsmouth-based warship glided under Tower Bridge - where she faced a barrage of camera flashes from eager tourists - and berthed alongside museum ship HMS Belfast, sister of her forebear which was sunk in the Arctic 71 years ago.

HMS Illustrious took all of her 22,500 tonne bulk down the river and through the Thames Barrier enroute to her Greenwich moorings.

As well as HMS Edinburgh and a third ship – HMS Blyth – the Portsmouth-based ship will be in the Capital for six days of events commemorating the longest military campaign of the Second World War.

Captain Martin Connell, the commanding officer of 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.”

This month, the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA 70) will 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 is supporting includes:

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.

Edinburgh will spend the next three weeks sailing around Britain - first to London, then the Scottish capital and finally Liverpool as part of a farewell tour, a goodbye not just to Edinburgh herself but also a class of ship which has served the Navy and nation with distinction, and paid the ultimate price in doing so on occasions: the Type 42 destroyer.

The 42s have been the safeguards of the Fleet against air attack since the 1970s and have seen action in every major conflict and police action which the RN has been involved in over the past four decades, from the Falklands and two Gulf wars to UN peacekeeping duties in the Adriatic in the 1990s and, most recently, pounding pro-Gaddafi forces in the 2011 Libyan civil war.

But with all six Type 45 destroyers, 21st-Century successors to the Type 42s, now in the hands of the Royal Navy, and four of them operational, the hour has come for the last of the veteran 14 Sheffield-class to sail into the sunset.

Edinburgh will continue Battle of the Atlantic commemorations by attending a Merchant Navy ceremony in Tower Hill on Saturday, and by joining up to two dozen warships in Liverpool later this month at the climax of events over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend; see the Royal Navy’s official Battle of the Atlantic website  for details.

In between - from May 15-21 - there will be an emotional last visit to Edinburgh, including a final parade through the city's streets.

She leaves London on Sunday – as does a team of nine officers and ratings who are cycling from the banks of the Thames to Edinburgh, via Coventry, Sheffield, York and Newcastle (cities all with Type 42s named after them) to raise money for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.

HMS Edinburgh returns to Portsmouth on May 31 for a ceremonial final entry to her home base, flying her decommissioning pennant.

She formally bows out of service on June 6.