Royal Navy ships arrive in London to mark 70th battle anniversary
PUBLISHED: 09:49 07 May 2013 | UPDATED: 09:50 07 May 2013
Two Royal Navy ships are today due to arrive in London to mark the 70th anniversary of the longest military campaign of World War Two.
HMS Edinburgh will be sailing up the River Thames to dock beside HMS Belfast. She is one of three battleships to arrive in the capital to kick start six days of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Veterans as well as current serving members of the Royal Navy will also attend a service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by a parade today.
The arrival is expected to be an emotional occasion for the ship’s company on board Type 42 destroyer, HMS Edinburgh, as she sails up the Thames for the final time before her decommissioning later this year in Portsmouth.
First to arrive was minehunter HMS Blyth, which berthed alongside Royal Naval Reserve unit HMS President at St Katherine’s Dock.
Completing the trio on Wednesday will be helicopter and commando carrier HMS Illustrious – which has a formal affiliation with the City of London – and she will be moored at Greenwich. The 22,000-tonne carrier will also be open to the general public at the weekend.
The Naval Regional Commander for Eastern England, Commodore Martin Atherton, said: “I am delighted to welcome Her Majesty’s Ships Illustrious, Edinburgh and Blyth to London to launch the Royal Navy’s nationwide commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. HMS Illustrious will also be renewing her long-standing affiliation with the City of London.
“It is particularly poignant for HMS Edinburgh. She is the last of our Type 42 Destroyers and this will be her final visit to the capital, as she will shortly decommission after 30 years of sterling service to the Royal Navy. Her predecessor, a Town-class light cruiser, has a Battle Honour for her involvement in the long, perilous Atlantic campaign.”
The Atlantic campaign was the longest continuous struggle of the War, waged from the first day of the war in September 1939 to the surrender of Germany in May 1945. It reached its climax in the spring of 1943 when the Germans were forced to withdraw their U-boats temporarily from the battle, after suffering crippling losses in what became known as ‘Black May’.
The victory was achieved at great cost. Between 1939 and 1945 some 30,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic, many of them from the London area from where a great number of merchant ships set sail from.
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