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Double celebration for HMS Mersey in British Virgin Islands

Double celebration for HMS Mersey in British Virgin Islands
Sailors from HMS Mersey helped the British Virgin Islands mark the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s visit – as well as celebrate her 90th birthday.

The River-class patrol ship called in at Tortola where the crew, dressed in their tropical No 1 uniforms, marched through the capital Road Town.

They were joined by the Royal Virgin Island Police Force, which fired a 21-gun salute, and children from the local Army Cadet Corps.

The parade was watched by locals and the Governor John Duncan and Premier of the island Orlando Smith.

It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to come here to help contribute to the upkeep of the BVI’s natural beauty.

Writer Nathan Roxburgh

The parade concluded with a speech by the Governor, who read a letter from the Queen stating how much she remembered fondly the BVI from her visit 50 years ago.

There was also an awards ceremony where medals were given to the members of the civil service recognising their long service to the islands. Commemorative awards were also given to those who helped assist the Queen on her first visit to the islands in 1966.

During her visit HMS Mersey welcomed aboard some children and adults for a tour, which took place during some tropical downpours.

Four sailors spent the day helping workers at the JR O’Neal Botanical Gardens repair gravel paths.

The four-acre gardens, located in the centre of Road Town, are considered to be among the finest in the Caribbean and showcase some of the islands’ tropical flora.

“It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to come here to help contribute to the upkeep of the BVI’s natural beauty,” said Writer Nathan Roxburgh.

Mersey hosted local dignitaries and members of the community for an evening reception and capability demonstration, with Mr Duncan taking the salute at the Ceremonial Sunset ceremony.

Mersey’s commanding officer Lt Cdr Richard Hewitt led a contingent to the Governor’s Queen’s Birthday Ball, with the ship’s Steward Chewe Besa distributing tots of rum to guests.

The islands, which comprise four main islands and around 50 other smaller islands and cays, are one of six UK Overseas Territories in the Caribbean.

Home to a large number of British expats, several welcomed Mersey’s sailors to their homes, swimming pools and yachts during the ship’s visit.

With the visit coming to a close, Mersey’s sailors finished off the visit with a few souvenirs from BVI’s resident Pusser’s Rum bar and distillery and a quick swim at the beautiful beaches around Cane Garden Bay.

HMS Mersey’s next port of call is Martinique, where she will conduct a planned maintenance period and then continue her busy programme of defence engagement.

Mersey left Portsmouth in January for her Caribbean deployment – a mixture of flag flying for the UK and drug-busting duties alongside the US Coast Guard.

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