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HMS Defender leads weekend of commemorations marking victory in the Atlantic

HMS Defender leads weekend of commemorations marking victory in the Atlantic
Royal Navy and allied warships will join merchant vessels in Liverpool next week for three days of commemorations marking the Battle of the Atlantic.

Led by destroyer HMS Defender, the ships are due to arrive on the morning of Friday May 26, raising the curtain on a weekend of events to mark the 80th anniversary of the longest, hardest naval battle in British history.

Joining HMS Defender on the prime berth of the Cruise Liner Terminal at the heart of Liverpool’s waterfront will be the French frigate Bretagne, and Trinity House Vessel Patricia. The American destroyer USS Ramage will also call into the city during the weekend.

The vessels will provide an impressive backdrop to events on and over the Mersey, while their sailors will join in commemorative events ashore. HMS Defender and the Bretagne will be open to visitors, welcoming members of the public on board throughout Saturday and Sunday.

“This will probably be our final chance to say ‘thank you’ to that wonderful wartime generation who fought the battle – serving in the ships, in the docks, in the shipyards, in the homes,” said Commodore Phil Waterhouse, the Royal Navy’s Regional Commander for Northern England, based at HMS Eaglet in Liverpool.

“No city is more connected with the Battle of the Atlantic than Liverpool, it felt its effects, suffered the loss of men, suffered under the bombs, waved U-boat hunters off to sea and celebrated their return. So there can be no more fitting a setting for these 80thanniversary commemorations.”

He continued: “It also a chance to remind people that the sea remains the lifeblood of Britain’s prosperity – 95 per cent of our trade and 97 per cent of the UK’s gas supply comes by sea, mostly through pipelines, while 99 per cent of our data passes through undersea cables.

“The Royal Navy is out there, in home waters and beyond, every day safeguarding those routes and the shipping using them.”

The weekend will get underway with a private service of commemoration at St Nick’s Church at the Pier Head.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal will be the guest of honour at the service, which will acknowledge the sacrifice of the thousands of UK and allied sailors involved in the Battle of the Atlantic, both merchant and military.

After the church service, The Princess Royal will unveil a new Battle of the Atlantic Memorial and garden of reflection – the first of its kind in the UK – in the church grounds.

In the evening a poignant light show beaming the names of ships and sailors into the skies – Atlantic Lights – will be switched on at Woodside for the first time.

Both the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and vintage Fleet Air Arm Swordfish and Seafire aircraft will stage flypasts on all three days of the event, weather permitting.

Defender and Bretagne will open their gangways to the public on Saturday and Sunday May 27/28 and various activities will be staged in a ‘military village’ across Pier Head. All are free and run from 10am to 5pm.

 

The village will feature equipment and a whole host of free family activities from the Royal Navy, Army, and RAF including Typhoon simulator, a Royal Navy VR speedboat simulator, climbing walls, bungee runs, a Spitfire replica, tanks, helicopters, and vintage military vehicles.

Battle of the Atlantic displays and special family activities will be open for visitors at Western Approaches Museum and the Maritime Museum in the Royal Albert Dock.

Over the water in Birkenhead, Cammell Laird shipyard will run a series of BoA80-themed tours around its yard to celebrate the efforts of shipbuilders in WW2, and to show how things have moved on (they are currently converting new seabed surveillance ship RFA Proteus for military use).

On Sunday May 28 there will be a Drumhead service of thanksgiving at midday at Pier Head followed at 1.30pm by a March for the Medals from Exchange Flags to Princes Parade, where a group of Battle of the Atlantic veterans, now all in their 90s, will take the salute from the marching troops.

The weekend’s commemorations will conclude with the visiting vessels sailing down the Mersey at 5pm, escorted by a convoy from the Mersey’s maritime community and a Beat Retreat played by His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band at Pier Head.

Further details of events and timings are available at https://battleoftheatlantic.org/

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