To mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA 70) – the longest continuous military campaign of the Second World War – the city of Liverpool will act as the focal point this weekend for the national commemoration.
The theme of BOA 70 is to illustrate the past, present and future of the UK’s rich maritime heritage, with particular emphasis on the role BOA 70 veterans – both Merchant and Royal Navy – played in helping overcome the appalling threat that the German U-boats posed to UK’s supply lines during the war.
And to show the ongoing reliance that Great Britain still has on the sea, and the continuing relevance of the Royal Navy in protecting the nation’s many interests around the world.
The event is being sponsored by Cammell Laird, the Birkenhead ship repair and engineering firm, which also played a massive role in building and supporting ships that fought in the Battle during the War.
There is a wide range of events taking place from Thursday, May 23 until Tuesday, May 28 including:
- Over 20 warships visiting the city drawn from six countries
- A military capability demonstration
- A Royal commemoration ceremony in the Anglican Cathedral
- A military and veterans’ parade at the Anglican Cathedral and nearby streets
- A Fleet Air Arm fly-past to honour the role of aviators in BOA 70
There is also plenty on offer for the public to engage with at the Pierhead, Albert Dock and Princes Parade over the weekend, including static and kinetic displays by the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, RAF and the Army including helicopters, a Sea Harrier cockpit display, a combat display team, a Typhoon, a Chinook, climbing walls, a combat chef cooking demonstration and much, much more.
Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, Councillor Wendy Simon, said:
“It is a real honour for Liverpool to be the national focus of these 70th anniversary commemorations.
“When it comes to maritime events, Liverpool excels.
“We’re expecting around 250,000 visitors, and whatever the weather, the city will shine.
“Working in partnership with the Royal and Merchant navies, we are proud to have developed a huge programme consisting of well over 100 events.
“These will not only be a tribute to those who took part in the Battle of Atlantic, but will also appeal to people of all ages, entertaining them but also teaching them about the sacrifices made for the lives of future generations.”
The senior naval officer for Northern England, Rear Admiral Chris Hockley, said:
“I was delighted to be in Liverpool last month for the launch event and as I said at the time, the city is absolutely the right place for the national focus on commemorating the Battle of the Atlantic on its 70th anniversary.
“It was the home of the Western Approaches operations room and the receiver of over 1000 convoys, together with ship repair and building activity in support.
“The events planned over the weekend of May 24-28 – the time in 1943 recognised as being the turning point for this long and drawn out battle – will provide a fantastic opportunity for the public to engage with, and learn more about, those who made such a vital contribution, including Merchant and Royal Navy veterans.”
Highlights among the weekend’s events include:
Thursday, May 23
- Arrival of Royal Navy and foreign naval vessels
- Two-day Battle of Atlantic Academic Conference, Dinner and Reception, sponsored by Seafarers UK
Friday, May 24
- Final visiting ships arrive
- Wirral & District amateur radio group – special event at Fort Perch Rock to contact over 1000 enthusiasts worldwide with special BOA call-sign (continues until Monday)
- Ships’ receptions for invited guests and dignitaries
Saturday, May 25
- Veterans and their families are invited to gather at the Cunard Building at 11.30am, where a procession led by Chinese lion dancers, Indian drummers and troops from the Polish community (representing the nationalities which made up crew on merchant and royal navy vessels) will head to the Merchant Navy memorial on the Pier Head for a poignant wreath-laying ceremony
- Model boat exhibition (continues until Monday)
- Opening of the Veterans Welcome Centre – open all weekend from 12-4pm – at the Port of Liverpool Building. Veterans can enjoy tea served by Liverpool Sea Cadets.
- Battle of the Mersey – a visual spectacle from 1pm involving the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, attack craft and helicopter, with merchant tug Brocklesbank also taking part. This is followed by a fly-past from a Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft (weather permitting; also Sunday and Monday)
- Ships open to visit by the general public on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 25-27 between 11am and 4pm as follows: HMS Edinburgh – Cammell Laird Wet Basin, HMS Pembroke – Canning Half Tide Dock, Kulakov – Cruise Liner Terminal, Iroquois – Cruise Liner Terminal, Groemitz – Canning Dock
- The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines will join local artists in a sold-out evening concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
- Craig Morrison’s art installation, two high intensity lasers projected from the Liver Building, transmitting the phrase ‘Thank You’ in Morse code, a tribute to Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma Code which saved many lives during the Battle of the Atlantic (also Sunday)
Sunday 26 May
- Commemorative Service at the Anglican Cathedral, followed by a parade at 12.30pm, which includes platoons from the Merchant Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Regulars, Reservists and Cadets from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force.
Monday 27 May
- Raft Race involving around 15 teams made up of Service personnel and guest visitors including the Merseyside Fire Service in Salthouse Dock at 1pm.
- A sold-out 40s themes Veterans party at St George’s Hall.
Tuesday 28 May
- From 2pm the fleet of vessels will sail out of the city in a spectacular co-ordinated departure.
Press Release, May 22, 2013; Image: Royal Navy