Kiel Week – Germany’s Navy Days/Cowes Week/Boat Show

F221 Hessen "open ship" during the K...

FGS Hessen during Kiel Week 2007 (Image via Wikipedia)

Regular readers will be well aware that I was slightly disappointed with Navy Days this year – no major warships, no foreign warships, sadly a bit of a damp squib. Of course, its east to understand why we didnt have any carriers or assault ships there – Invincible in mothballs, Illustrious and Bulwark in Refit, Ark Royal, Ocean and Albion on exercise in the US – but why no visitors from overseas? Its almost unheard of.

When I was browsing on Seawave’s archived list of Port Visits, I stumbled upon a large gather of German and foreign warships in Kiel in Germany every June. With a bit of digging, it transpires that this is Germany’s answer to Navy Days, Cowes Week and the Southampton Boat Show rolled into one. Sounds like quite some event! It started in the early twentieth century, when Kaiser Wilhelm wanted to imitate the traditional British event of Cowes Week, combined with displays of German naval might.

Every year the US Navy in Europe organises a series of exercises in the Baltic, known as BALTOPS (Baltic Operations). A large contingent of US vessels take part, and of course other NATO and non-NATO countries, and after the exercise has finished most of the visitors call into Kiel Week. These are the ships that were at Kiel Week this year:

Germany: FGS U-24 (Submarine), Sachsen (Frigate), Frankfurt Am Main (auxiliary), Bayern (Frigate), Ammersee (Tanker), Fehmarn (Tug), Spiekeroog (Tug), Lutje Horn (tug).
Russia: RFS Kaliningrad (landing ship)
Denmark: HDMS Viben, Glenten, Svanen (patrol vessels), Thyra, Alholm, Ertholm (sail training ships), Budstikken (patrol ship)
Poland: ORP Kaszub (corvette)
US: USS Mount Whitney (HQ Ship), Simpson (Frigate), Stephen W. Groves (Frigate)

The year before in 2009 there was an even bigger turn-out -

Latvia: LVS Virsaitis (minelayer)
Germany: FGS Gorch Fock (tall ship), Frankfurt An Main (auxiliary), Lachs (landing craft), Wische (auxiliary), Spiekeroog (tug), Mosel (auxiliary), Rhein (auxiliary), Oker (electronics ship), Frankenthal (minehunter), Bad Rappenau (minehunter), Kulmbach (minehunter), Auerbach (minesweeper), Ensdorf (minesweeper), Passau (minehunter), Spessart (tanker), Uberherrn, Laboe (minehunters), Siegburg (minesweeper), Herten (minesweeper), Puma, Nerz, Zobel (attack ships), Hameln (minesweeper), Elbe (auxiliary), Bottsand (oil recovery ship), Eisvogel (tug), Langeness (tug), Lutje Horn (tug), Sylt, Karlsruhe (Frigate)
Russia: RFS Kaliningrad (landing ship)
Denmark: HDMS Budstikken, Sabotoren, (patrol ships) Ertholm, Alholm (sail training ships), Ebsern Snare (Frigate), Thyra, Svanen, (sail training ships) Havkatten, Makrelen, (patrol/MCMV) Glenten (patrol vessel), Peter Tordenskhold (corvette)
Lithuania: LTNS Suduvis (minesweeper)
France: FS Pegase (minesweeper), Sagittaire (minesweeper)
Finland: FNS Hamina, Hanko (fast attack craft)
Poland: ORP Jamno (minesweeper)
Netherlands: HNLMS Zeeleeuw (submarine), Maasluis, Haarlem (minehunters) Mercuur (torpedo recovery ship), Van Kinsbergen (training ship)
Britain: HMS St Albans (Type 23 Frigate)
US: USS Mount Whitney (HQ Ship), USS Forrest Sherman (Destroyer)

It makes for an interesting comparison indeed. This year at Navy Days we had two Destroyers, three Frigates, one hospital ship, one minesweeper and a landing craft. All from the Royal Navy. Of course, if theres a big event on, such as a Fleet Review, then there are more ships in for Navy Days. Plymouth Navy Days always seem to have more ships – probably because the authorities know that there is nothing else to see in Plymouth, whereas in Portsmouth the Historic Dockyard is also a pull. On the other hand, Plymouth frequently hosts foreign warships for Operational Sea Training and the Thursday wars.

Another example of how the Royal Navy could do with being a bit more savvy – if you want to put on a good Navy Days, try organising an exercise just before or after, and theres more chance that people will turn up because there will be something new and interesting to see.

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30 Comments

Filed under event, Navy

30 responses to “Kiel Week – Germany’s Navy Days/Cowes Week/Boat Show

  1. Media savvy or focused on onperations?

  2. James Daly

    Other countries seem to manage to put on a good show when it comes to it, I’m sure with planning its possible to work around operations. Having said that of course the RN is more stretched than its ever been, but I can’t help but think that ‘operational reasons’ are trotted out as an excuse for a lot of things, because it trumps everything even if its not true.

    I’m more and more convinced that modern armed forces need to work in a 21st century way, engaging with the public IS important and part of the job – hearts and minds and all that. The Admirals complain that Britain is ‘seablind’ – what are they going to do to change it?

  3. x

    You were disappointed? And all you had to do was fall out of bed right into the dockyard. Pitty those of us who travelled all the way from the extreme north west Midlands. :)

    I was disappointed with access to the T45. It would be good if you could book tickets for extended tours. And I regret not visiting Westminster which I believe was more “open.” Not so much for me but my dad as he hasn’t seen the “insides” of many grey war canoes. The lack of foreign ships I put down to the current economic climate. Though we were spoiled in 2005. I have yet to visit a USN ship at ND…..

    As somebody who was once heavily involved with Sea Cadets I note Their Lordships were leaning heavily on that organisation again to provide displays. But in that relationship both organisations are as bad as each other so… I believe the internet expression is “meh.”

    Once things are back on an even keel here I do intend to spend a long weekend in Pompey. I miss the place. And I keep promising myself that hovercraft trip across the Solent.

  4. James Daly

    One thing I am impressed with is how the RN often send ships off for visits to non-Naval ports, thats important for flying the flag, raising the RN’s profile, careers and what not. You often see ships going up the Thames into London. And apparently they sent an MCMV down the Manchester ship canal recently. I noticed on portvisits that the Belgian Navy sent one of their MCMV’s right round the interior country through their large canal system.

    As far as I can recall there hasnt been a USN ship at Portsmouth Navy Days since 1994, when USS Normandy was here for D-Day 50. I’m not sure Uncle Sam likes johnny foreigner poking around on his warships…

  5. x

    Yes the RN have sent a MCMV up the canal on more than once occasion. If I remember rightly Rochdale Sea Cadets (fantastic unit, well run, good staff, etc.) are affiliated to an MCMV.

    Further I know RN ships are frequent visitors to the Isle of Man.

  6. James Daly

    I think its very important to get out – when operations allow – and see the people, and let the people see you. It’s a broader part of the modern military covenant that the forces need to win hearts and minds on operations, they also need to win them at home too if people are to support them and stand up for them. Armed forces recruit from society; soldiers, sailors and airmen’s families are part of society, and when they join civvy street they’re part of society too. The public need to be coaxed round to realising that support for the armed forces is about more than just looking after them when they are wounded, as vital as that is. Rupert Smith wrote about ‘war among the peoples’, I think you can extend that to the ‘home front’ too.

    Theres a piece in the latest Warship World about the fears that trips out at sea for Naval Cadets might be a thing of the past, due to health and safety and lack of ships.

  7. x

    Wasn’t it Churchill who said most of what the navy does goes unseen? I don’t want to be seen to be RAF bashing but the Red Arrows (as good as they are) really annoy the crap out of me. I have avoided most of the BoB coverage this weekend; I feel like a heal but I get tired of the constant presence of the RAF PR machine. Yes brave men died and it was awful but historically there were more dimensions to the conflict in 1940. You can’t drive a destroyer up the M6, but the RN, the silent service, just can’t compete or don’t want to compete or worse don’t realise they need to compete for resources. I don’t think the RAF sets out as an organisation to deliberately put the other services down. And a lot of their “soft power” comes from public ignorance. It is just at times my wild imagination thinks the Air Marshalls have more in common with Satchi & Satchi than Dowding. Apart from BoB the record of RAF hasn’t been any better than the other services. And a lot of time their record has verged on dire. I always choke when I see that “Right of the Line” book in the Pen & Sword catalogue.

    When you say Naval Cadets who exactly are you talking about? Are you talking cadets from Dartmouth, URNU’s, or Sea Cadets?
    If it is cadets from Dartmouth surely there are lots of berths available onboard Bays? Now if you are talking about URNU’s these are particular hobby horse of mine. URNU’s aren’t about attracting quality graduates into the Service. URNU’s are about introducing Britain’s future leaders to the RN. How successful this has been as a strategy can be seen through the cuts the fleet has suffered year on year! And though there is fierce competition to gain a place in an URNU I think they loose out to the more spectacular RAF Uni’ Squadrons. But the main reason why URNU’s really bugged me was the money they cost compared to the RN’s contribution to Sea Cadets. The RN may contribute material, training guidance, facilities, senior staff to the Corps; but all offshore berths via Jerwood, Royalist etc. are provided by the Corps. So 14 URNU’s get HMG funded vessels, while 14,000 Sea Cadets have to make do with 2 large vessels and some yachts. Getting Sea Cadets to sea is a major undertaking; take it from someone who spent a year raising the best of 3k to get his cadets to sea. Now I know due to the current economic climate there is awaiting list to get into the RN. But it hasn’t always been that way and defence cuts and a resurgent economy may adversely affect recruitment in the future. Sometimes I wondered if there was a class dimension to it; historically the RN was the middle class service and there are no more class conscience than the middle classes. Better to put RN money into officers than the pool of potential lower deck recruits. Sea Cadets already suffer compared to the other two MoD sponsored cadet corps. No wonder a good number of ex-Sea Cadets go off and join the army, the RAF, and police. (Or so it appeared to me anyway.)

    I will stop ranting and rambling now.

  8. URNU personnel are supposedly members of the RNR – although only honourary, non deployable ones. This is a source of annoyance to real naval reservists – many of whom do go on operations.

    However, the P2000 boats they operate do get other tasks, including acting as hostiles for training. In extremitis, they could be armed and used as patrol vessels.

    But less dangrous to cut than frigates or submarines..

  9. James Daly

    My experience of the URNU at Uni was that they seemed to spend most of their time getting wankered (yes, i know thats what students do, but still), falling behind in their studies thanks to the umpteen parades and exercises they had to do, and in a few cases dropping out of Uni and the RN… They did tend to wear their rank too, although ‘Midshipman RNR’ doesnt exactly have gravitas… The whole thing didnt seem to make much sense to me, I cant see how its possible to get a good degree, give the URNU the time it deserves and play all the mess games too.

  10. x

    Good point WEBF. Yes I know the P2000 could be used for other stuff. I am actually trying to remember how much they cost MoD(N) each year. My brain keeps saying 1million a boat, but that can’t possibly be right…….

    The Sea Cadet Corps is oddly obsessed with commissions too, They decided that ex-cadet who were uni’ students could apply to become middies. Never asked the unit chairs… And I remember when I was an instructor there was always much discussion about going for a commission. I developed a rule of thumb that any adult who stayed as a senior rate was probably OK. In our district most of the officers were work shy PUW (Professional Uniform Wearers.) Funnily enough the latter group looked down on anybody with a real interest in naval matters. And they were also the ones who seemed to see the kids as a necessary evil. Our district staff wouldn’t have known a T22 from a number 34 bus. Odd organisation. I miss like I miss hernia……

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