Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

HMS Defender parades through Exeter city centre

HMS Defender parades through Exeter city centre
15 February 2023
The Royal Navy brought pomp, ceremony and military precision to the heart of Devon’s County town last Sunday as Exeter’s own warship celebrated its Freedom.

Led by the Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines from the Commando Training Centre just down the road in Lympstone, over 180 sailors from destroyer HMS Defender, along with veterans and Naval cadets from Exeter, marched from St James Park along Sidwell Street to Cathedral Green.

Leading the marching platoons of sailors from the Portsmouth-based warship was the Colours Party, carrying both the Royal Navy’s Standard and the Scroll which was presented to Defender when the state-of-the-art air defence destroyer was granted the highest civic honour, Freedom of Exeter, in 2014.

Launched in 2009, HMS Defender is the fifth of six Type 45 warships built for the Royal Navy. She is the eighth ship to bear the name and follows two renowned wartime destroyers, that were awarded battle honours for Jutland and Heligoland during the First World War and in the Mediterranean at Matapan and Crete in the Second.

It's the task of the latest ship to carry the name to protect herself – or an entire naval task force, such as HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Carrier Strike Group which she accompanied on its maiden deployment to the Pacific in 2021.

Defender’s busy operational programme – last year she followed up the Pacific mission with missions in the Arctic, Baltic and Mediterranean, sailing more than 27,000 nautical miles – has meant opportunities to celebrate her affiliation with Exeter have been limited since 2014.

And the occasion was particularly poignant for Petty Officer Craig Black, a weapons engineering specialist onboard, proudly marching through his hometown.

“It’s been a great day for me and my family,” said Craig. “Serving at sea in the Royal Navy they don’t normally get an opportunity to see what I do, but parading through Exeter today has been very exciting, and was extra special as well for my 1-year-old daughter Lily and fiancé Sofia to be here.

“I have only done one previous Freedom Parade before, through the City of Durham and then as now, it’s amazing to see so many people taking their time to line the streets, all showing their support for HMS Defender and the Royal Navy.”

The Lord Mayor of Exeter Councillor Yolanda Henson said, “We’ve very much been looking forward to welcoming back the crew of HMS Defender to Exeter. The city has a strong affection for its affiliated Ship, and we have been looking forward to this parade since the granting of Freedom of the City in 2014.”

“Today has been a true honour; not only to witness my ship’s company marching smartly through the fine city of Exeter, but also to be welcomed so warmly by everyone as they marched past,” said Commander Peter Evans, CO HMS Defender.

“These opportunities are few and far between for naval ships and it was great to see over 180 of my sailors be celebrated in our affiliated city; I couldn’t be prouder of the professionalism of HMS Defender today.

We are currently in a support period getting ready to again return to sea for exercises, training and operations, to deliver as the best Destroyer in the Royal Navy and make our Exeter affiliation as proud of us as we have been welcomed into their city.”

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.