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HMS Duncan honours in Georgia

Beneath the searing sun on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, Cdre Mike Utley salutes 68 Britons killed in a largely-forgotten military adventure 100 years ago.

The rare visit of a British warship to the eastern European nation of Georgia permitted today’s generation of Servicemen and women to remember sailors and soldiers sent east to stem the red tide of Communism.

Just a month after the guns fell silent in France and Belgium in November 1918, a force of ships and troops was sent to Georgia to support anti-Communist forces trying to re-take Russia from the Bolsheviks and Red Army.

And as with all Allied intervention across Russia it failed. British forces were pulled out and Georgia spent 70 years under the rule of the hammer and sickle.

The exercise tested the impressive array of warships mustered off the Romanian coast


The graves of the 68 British military personnel – five of them RN – buried in Batumi British Military Cemetery could not be found when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission visited the city after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Instead, four years ago a memorial wall listing the fallen was erected.

HMS Duncan’s visit to the port of Poti, 30 miles up the coast from Batumi, allowed Cdre Utley, commanding a NATO task group from the Type 45 destroyer, Duncan’s CO Cdr Eleanor Stack and a number of their ship’s company, plus Royal Marine Lt Col David Ethell, the UK’s Defence Attaché in Georgia.

The visit to the country for NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 – a force at present of four ships, currently drawn from the Black Sea region – comes on the back of participation in the Romanian Fleet’s annual major workout, Sea Shield.

The exercise tested the impressive array of warships mustered off the Romanian coast across the full spectrum of naval warfare and missions: board and search duties, submarine hunting, amphibious operations and air attacks.

The Romanian Air Force committed three veteran MiG-21 Lancers, while the RAF dispatched the same number of Typhoons all the way across Europe.

The British jets came under the control of Duncan and her ops room team, who used the Eurofighters as the shield against mock air-to-surface attacks, fending off incoming air raids on the naval group.

The spirit of international co-operation and training continued in Georgia where the Royal Marines boarding team on HMS Duncan shared their experience and tactics with counterparts from Georgia’s Coastguard and commandos, using the Type 45 as their ‘playground’ while alongside in Poti.

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