Category Archives: event

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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Port Visits – useful website

HMS Diamond in the Clyde. Radar and gun fitted.

HMS Diamond at the builders yard (Image via Wikipedia)

I’ve stumbled on a pretty interesting website, called Port Visits. I can see it being one of those websites that I frequently visit!

Some intrepid person has taken it upon themselves to compile a website of warship movements around the world, from virtually every navy on the seas. Its interesting to see what’s going on around the world – courtesy visits, exercises, reviews, for example. Theres always a lot going on at Plymouth – because its the base for Royal Navy Operational Sea Training (FOST). Foreign warships call in too, such as this Monday coming the German FGS Bayern (Brandenburg class Frigate), FGS Hamburg (Sachsen class Frigate), FGS Berlin (auxiliary) and the Dutch HNLMS De Ruyter (De Zeven Provinicen Class Frigate). I’ve got to admit, I wouldn’t mind getting some pictures…

The US Navy survey ship USNS Henson is calling in to Portsmouth, as well as the British Hospital ship RFA Argus. On Wednesday the third Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Diamond, arrives in Portsmouth for the first time. The Portsmouth based Type 42 Destroyer HMS Manchester is calling in at St Kitts and Bermuda in the Carribean on Disaster relief duties during the Hurricane season (no doubt keeping an eye out for drug runners too).

Further afield, theres a big fleet review taking place at Valparaiso in Chile for the 200th anniversary of the Chilean Navy. Britain is represented by HMS Portland, the Plymouth based Type 23 Frigate. She’ll be meeting up with her old Type 23 sister ships, Almirante Condell, Almirante Cochrane and Almirante Lynch. Also attending are ships from Argentina (GC Mantilla, patrol ship), Brazil (Barroso, Corvette), an un-named ship from Iran, Canada (HMCS Protecteur, auxiliary; and HMCS Algonquin, Iroquois class Destroyer) and the US Navy (USS Jarrett, Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate). The presence of an Iranian warship will be interesting, alongside the US Navy, and also a Royal Navy ship taking part in a review alongside an Argentinian vessel. It also shows how times have changed – whilst the UK and Chile have long been allies, Chile and Argentina have always had a difficult relationship, but at present are enjoying cordial relations.

Further into the future, you can see what port visits are scheduled in the long term – Chinese warships visiting Sydney sometime in September, Japanese ships visiting Jakarta, China and South Korea, USS Mount Whitney calling in at Murmansk, and so on. Its really useful, because port visits in Portsmouth – and a lot of places nowadays, I suspect – only get announced a day or two before they take place.

Another very useful resource, is that you can dig back through the archives back to January 2000, to see whats been going on over time. I’ve found it really interesting seeing what ships arrived in Portsmouth for the International Fleet Review in June 2005. There was also quite a big event at Kiel in Germany that month too, with ships from the Royal Navy, Spain, Ireland, Poland, Russia, France, Egypt, Latvia, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Holland, Canada and the US.

O.K., call me a warship nerd!

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Navy Days 2010 – the rest of the sights

7 Dock

There’s always plenty more to look at at Navy Days other than the Warships – OK, so they are the big draw, but you can find some pretty interesting stuff on the docksides too.

I had an interesting chat with a Gentleman at the Project Vernon stand. Project Vernon aims to erect a statue at Gunwharf Quays, commemorating the sites heritage as the Royal Navy’s centre for Minewarfare until its closure in 1996. I’ve been researching a minewarfare man, CPO Reg Ellingworth GC, so I think its a wonderful idea and a very good project – good luck to them!

One of the highlights of the day, for me, was getting to visit the Royal Navy Historical Branch. This is one of those quiet departments that you know exists, but get to actually visit once in a blue moon. Their library seemed to have the Mariners Mirror, the Navy List, and practically every other kind of naval and maritime journal. While I was there a number of visitors were getting some advice about their ancestors naval service. I had a very interesting in-depth discussion with one of the members of staff about naval service records – how difficult they are to read, what all the abbreviations mean, and how to interpret them. The conclusion? Somebody needs to write a book on it! And also, it would be great if resources like this could be more accesible.

Type 26 model

The BAe System stand was very interesting. In effect the only shipbuilding company of note in Britain nowadays, BAe are leading the work on the Type 45 Destroyers, the new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the Astute Class submarines, and design work for the new Type 26 Frigates. As you might expect their stand was very flash indeed.

Another stand I found interesting was the HMS Intrepid stand. A small group dedicated to perserving her memory had on display some relics from the Falklands veteran landing ship. Apparently when it came to scrapping her the old girl put up quite a protest, and even her name plate would not come off without a fight!

RM

In terms of harbour and air displays, things were a bit thin on the ground. I did catch the Royal Marines anti-piracy boarding demonstration, which looked excellently conducted, and shows what they can do when they’re actually allowed to (reference the incident in the Indian Ocean last year when a Marine boarding party was not allowed to rescue a kidnapped British couple). The Royal Navy Lynx Helicopter display team the Black Cats put on a display, as did the Royal Navy’s historic flight Harvard, but I’ve seen both of them before several times now. While I was on one of the warships the Royal Artillery’s Black Knights parachute display team – why is it that every armed forces unit has its own parachute display team?

The arena events were ok, if not spectacular or unusual. The Royal Marines, Royal Navy volunteer and Rose and Thistle Pipe Bands are firm fixtures at these type of events. I’m a bit mystified as to what the Solent Dog team has to do with Navy Days – I could have understood if it was an MOD police dog display or something like that. The Royal Signals white helmets motorbike display team disappeared from the programme, even though they had been announced earlier in the year. I can’t say I was particularly excited about Bloodhound either – the supersonic car. Again, quite what its got to do with the Navy, who knows…

Re-enactment groups are always good to see, whatever you think about re-enactors, it brings history to life in a far more accesible way. I spotted the Fort Cumberland Guard, The Coldstream Guards, some gentleman doing Napoleonic Musket firing near HMS Victory, and a group rowing a Victory-era small boat in 1 Basin. There weren’t as many wandering entertainers as I’ve seen in previous years, however.

Aachen

While we’re talking about boats, I forgot to mention RCL Aachen, a British Army operated and crewed large Landing Craft. She’s run by the Royal Corps of Logistics, and based at Marchwood in Southampton Water. According to her crew she can operate with the Royal Navy’s amphibious forces, but spends much of her time operating as a kind of water-borne taxi for the army, taking small numbers of men and equipment from one place to another by water.

However, the biggest pleasant surprise was finding Jason Salkey, who played Rifleman Harris in the Sharpe TV series. This was really quite something, as Sharpe is probably the reason why I am into military history in the first place. Jason’s a very nice bloke, and happily talked about Bernard Cornwell’s books, Sean Bean, and how sad he is that after he was killed off in Sharpe’s Waterloo he cannot appear in any future programmes.

1 Basin

Something that not a lot of people appreciate, is that the Dockyard buildings themselves have an awful lot of history – all you need to do is take a look at one of the many books by Ray Riley or Brian Patterson – every dock, storehouse, boathouse, jetty or basin has its own history. If only those bricks could talk… And when Navy Days is on you get to look round parts that aren’t normally open to the public, and take pictures from different angles – especially of 1 Basin from the top of RFA Argus!

All in all, there could have been a more and better displays, in particular in the air and in the arena. I can’t believe that on its biggest showcase of the year the Navy – or indeed the other armed forces – could not put on more. Its either lack of resources, costcutting, or sheer lack of effort. Thankfully some of the rare gens – such as meeting Jason Salkey, the Historical Branch, finding out about Project Vernon, RFA Argus and talking to some of the sailors on the ships made up for things. But theres something wrong when the sideshows are more interesting than the ships…

Apparently the word is that there won’t be a Portsmouth Navy Days in 2012 as it clashes with the Olympics – what that’s got to do with it I’m really not quite sure… why not just move it to another part of the year? Sounds like cost-cutting to me, unless of course the Type 45 Destroyers are going to be part of the air defence cordon off the Thames Estuary… There is talk of an event being put on next year, but as usual it looks like Portsmouth will miss out.

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Navy Days 2010 – The Ships

I’ve just got back from Navy Days in Portsmouth Dockyard. Here’s my round-up of the ships that were on display:

RFA Argus

RFA Argus

RFA Argus is a Primary Casualty Receiving Ship, with secondary roles as an aviation training ship and a general transport. She was launched in 1981 as the civilian container ship MV Contender Bezant, and served in the Falklands War as an aircraft transport. After the 1982 conflict she was purchased by the MOD and fitted out as an aviation training ship. In the Gulf War of 1991 she served as a casualty receiving ship, and its in this role that she was given a major refit over the past few years. She now has a very impressive medical facility, crewed by over 200 medical staff. There are 3 operating theatres, a recovery wing and a full general ward. Apparently the patients receive one-to-one care, with a nurse for each person. The ward has exactly the same facilities you would expect in an NHS Hospital, but tailored very much with the need for treating freezing cold sailors in mind.

The medical staff do not routinely stay onboard the ship unless on a specific tasking. The ship is on very short notice to sail, and the medical staff will be picked up along the way. Apparently she was put on notice to go to Iceland during the volcano affair. She was also almost used as a casualty ferry during the first phase of the Afghanistan War in 2001, when it looked like she would be the only way of bringing casualties home.

Argus has a very impressive flight deck and hangar – ideal for receiving casualties and then sending them on home when well enough. The ships company of Argus also put on a very good display and were very informative.

RFA Argus flight deck

HMS Dauntless

HMS Dauntless

HMS Dauntless is the Royal Navy’s newest Type 45 air defence Destroyer. Navy Days 2010 is the first time she has been open to visitors, and not surprisingly there were lengthy queues to get onboard. The tour did not go up to the bridge, but did include a very interesting look in the Ops room. I enjoyed talking to the Principle Warfare Officer, about Sea Viper (Dauntless are due to test it in September) and how it can track 36 targets at once, and how the command system is light years ahead of what the Navy is used to. All of the command systems are based on Windows, meaning that any young sailors joining up wont take long to learn how to use it! The most impressive thing about the Type 45′s is the space – they are so much more roomy than older ships, so claustrophobia is not such an issue as on a Type 42.

Apparently, the Phalanx systems due to be fitted to the 45′s are brand new, and not ripped off of the old Type 42′s as reported in the media – the Phalanx’s from the 42′s are now guarding Kandahar airport! Apparently the 45′s are also built with the space for a surface weapon system such as Harpoon in mind – there is space on the superstructure, a space for the electronics in the Ops room, and even the crew is designed with it as a possibility.

Sadly it was difficult to linger on Dauntless, given the crowds. It would have been nice to see a bit more of the ship too. Her sister ship Daring was also on display, but I’ve already been on her, so I gave those queues a miss.

HMS Westminster and HMS Richmond

Richmond and Westminster

HMS Richmond and Westminster are two of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 Frigates. The Captain of HMS Westminster was on the bridge when I went round – why dont more Captains do it? – and was happily talking to visitors. Apparently there is a waiting list to join the Navy at the moment, and more than a few of his junior seamen have degrees.

The Type 23′s are not exactly the most interesting ships to look round, but it would still be nice to see more of the ship and to see some interesting demonstrations or displays.

HMS Cumberland

Cumberland

HMS Cumberland is a Batch 3 ship of the Type 22 Class Frigates, and as my friend recently said, is a ‘proper warship’, and looks like one too. She’s interesting to look round, helped by the fact that her Sea Wolf launchers are more visible than the Type 23′s vertical launch systems. We don’t often see 22′s here in Portsmouth, as they are based in Plymouth. Its a shame most of them were flogged off on the cheap in the 90′s…

HMS Cattistock

Cattistock

HMS Cattistock is a Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessel. The Portsmouth Minesweeper Flotilla at present rotate, with ships spending several years in the Gulf, and the crews rotating on them every 6 months or so. The crew on Cattistock put on a first class display, talking about their role, how they deal with mines, and the Chief Petty Officer gave a very good talk about firefighting at sea. And apprently the Coxon likes a spot of fishing, and has a rod and line ready most of the time.

Just goes to show, the little ships can be the most interesting, and its not size that counts – if the crew put the effort in, everyone learns something. Only one thing, I counted 5 other Hunt Class ships in the Basin – why not open up another one to relieve the queues for Cattistock?

HMS Tyne

Tyne

HMS Tyne is an Offshore Fishery Patrol Vessel. She guards the UK’s territorial waters, and inspects the catches of fishing vessels, and generally makes sure they are playing by the rules. The young officer on the bridge gave a very interesting talk about how maneouvreable the ship is, and how tricky it is navigating around boats with miles of nets trailing behind them. Apparently the Tyne and her sister ships are also occasionally tasked to ward off snooping Russian warships in the North Sea…..

Thoughts

Obviously I’ve been quite vocal in my thoughts that Navy Days without a major surface ship – such as a Carrier of Landing Ship – is not really on. I still think the Navy has scored a big own goal by depriving its major annual profile-raising event of a star attraction. But I must confess what was on show was still worth seeing. RFA Argus in particular was very interesting. Another point I would stress, is that some ships made a lot more effort than others – after a while looking at the same SA80, GPMG and firefighting displays gets a bit repetitive. And crew members who are knowledgeable and good at engaging with the public really make these kind of events.

I’m puzzled as to why a Type 42 was not put on display – as far as I know there are several in the Dockyard at present. Perhaps the Navy wants to forget that they exist, in favour of the Type 45′s. The lack of any foreign warships is a mystery, its unknown for a Navy Days to take place with not a single visitor. One wonders whether we have offended everyone – have we not been sending any ships to their Navy Days? A foreign visitor would really have made a difference, as would an aircraft carrier or a landing ship.

Tomorrow – the other sights and attractions at Navy Days 2010

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HMS Cumberland added to Navy Days

The Type 22 Frigate HMS Cumberland has been confirmed to appear at the Navy Days event in Portsmouth at the end of the month. Cumberland is normally based in Plymouth, so it will be a rare opportunity to take a look round a Type 22 Frigate in Portsmouth. It also goes some way to bolstering what is a rather weak-looking line-up.

Despite this new announcement the line-up for Navy Days is still looking decidedly anaemic. HMS Ark Royal, HMS Ocean, HMS Albion, HMS Liverpool, HMS Sutherland, RFA Fort George and RFA Largs Bay are all off the east coast of the US for the AURIGA deployment and are obviously unavailable. HMS Invincible is rusting in 3 Basin and in no condition to be on display, and HMS Illustrious is in deep refit at Rosyth. HMS Bulwark is in refit in Plymouth. As Portsmouth is the home port of the Type 42 Destroyers at least one of those should be on display, but perhaps the Navy is keen to emphasise the future where Destroyers are concerned. The survey ship HMS Echo is currently undergoing operational sea training and might be available, or how about the other survey ship, HMS Scott? Navy Days might also be an ideal opportunity for the Royal Navy to show off the new Astute submarine – even if visitors could not go onboard, it would be a PR coup to even be able to see her tied up alongside, and with some suitable displays about her next door.

There have been noticeably few announcements about foreign warships too. Apart from the French fishery patrol ship FS Cormoran Navy Days is looking like a solely British affair. The last Navy Days in Portsmouth had French, Danish, Chilean and Japanese ships on display. Hopefully we’ll get some announcements in the next couple of weeks – there was talk at one stage of an Italian warship, which would be great if it turned out to be one of the Italian Navy’s new Destroyers, which are almost identical to the Type 45′s and would make for an interesting comparison.

The Royal Navy has never been good at PR, even its own senior officers have dubbed it the ‘silent service’. Its not difficult to work out that poor PR makes you vulnerable when it comes to cuts, as politicians, civil servants and the public at large will be poorly-informed about who you are and what you do. The RAF, on the other hand, has a strong heritage of promoting itself – it has always had to, right from its early days. You can be it will not be wasting a single opportunity to emphasise what it does in these critical days while the Strategic Defence Review is ongoing.

Officials will cite ‘operational commitments’ for the poor showing at Navy Days, but in the case of exercises such as AURIGA would it not have been possible to either move the dates of Navy Days or scale down our involvement so at least one major ship might have been available? Of course it must be nice for Admirals to go on flag-waving exercises and to practice the rarity of fixed-wing flying on a UK Aircraft Carrier, but with bad PR this might end up being a thing of the past entirely.

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New additions to Navy Days 2010

Several new additions have been made to the list of ships due to appear at Navy Days 2010, taking place in Portsmouth Dockyard from 30 July to 1 August.

HMS Gleaner is the smallest vessel in the Royal Navy, measuring just 14.8 metres and with a crew of five. Normally based at Devonport, he role is to survey the waters around the UK coastline.

FS Cormoran

FS Cormoran

The French Ship FS Cormoran is the first Foreign naval vessel to confirm her attendance. Normally based at Brest, the Fishery Patrol vessel has a crew of 19. She is a farely frequent visitor to Portsmouth Harbour on her Channel patrols.

So far the following ships are due to attend: The Type 45 Destroyers HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, aviation training and casualty receiving ship RFA Argus, Type 23 Frigates HMS Richmond and HMS Westminster, minehunter HMS Cattistock, Fishery patrol vessel HMS Tyne, and now HMS Gleaner and FS Cormoran.

Regular attendees will be hoping that more ships are added, and soon. Whilst no aircraft carrier will be presen due to refits, operations and mothballing, the Navy really should try to get one of the landing ships Ocean, Bulwark or Albion to attend. A lot is being made of the two new Destroyers, but no matter how new and shiny they are, Destroyers are never going to be crowd-pullers. And this is especially important at a time when the Royal Navy is facing cuts and needs to work on its public profile.

Lets hope that some interesting foreign ships confirm to attend, otherwise its starting to look pretty feeble compared to Navy Days past.

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Solent Overlord Show 2010

Scimitar light tank

I spent a couple of hours earlier at the Solent Overlord Military Show 2010 at the Horndean Showground.

Organised by the Solent Overlord Executive, a group of military vehicle enthusiasts, this annual show brings together hundreds of military vehicles from the Second World War to the modern era – plenty of WW2 jeeps, half-tracks (includking a German one), several guns, a host of Land Rovers, Bren Gun Carrier, a Scimitar light tank, and an FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier. There was even a Rapier Unit to provide anti-aircraft cover!

Rapier 2000 anti-air missiles

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It obviously takes real dedication to own and run a classic military vehicle. Obviously something like a WW2 military jeep is going to be harder to maintain than a Ford Focus. But there is usually something pretty redoubtable about a Jeep or a Land Rover. Military vehicle enthusiasts are a dedicated bunch. The only comment I would make, is that too few vehicles had any kind of information. I suppose I come from a museum background, but when I eventually get my Land Rover I will set up display boards about it, its history, the equipment, markings, and such like.

They might seem a bit nerdy but these kinds of shows are certainly popular, especially with the kids. And you can always see people huddled around vehicles, inspecting each others work and swapping notes. Throw in a host of military surplus stalls to rummage over, a beer tent and arena events and you've got a pretty good day out. And whats more, any surplus income from the show goes towards a suitable military charity, this year the Gurkha Welfare Fund.

Have a look at my flickr album of pics here - let me know if you can help identify any of the vehicles, or if I have made any mistakes!

56th (London) Division Jeep

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Filed under Army, cold war, event, Military vehicles, out and about, Uncategorized, World War Two

local military history events this summer

Its looking like a bumper summer for all things military history in the Portsmouth area. If I’ve missed any out, feel free to comment!

Overlord Vehicle Show – 28 to 31 May 2010

This event takes place every year at the Horndean showground near Portsmouth, and is organised by the Solent Overlord Executive Military Vehicle Club. For 4 days from 9am until 5.30pm you can take a good look at a whole host of military vehicles, re-enactors, arena events and stalls. This year the shows designated charity is the Gurkha Welfare Trust. For more information click here, and to look at some pictures from last years event, click here.

South Coast Proms – 25 and 26 June 2010

This is a brand new event, featuring the massed bands of the Royal Marines – only the best military band in the world! Its taking place on Whale Island, a naval base normally closed to the public. Pre-show entertainment starts at 6.30pm each night, and the evening will end on a high with the traditional Naval Ceremonial Sunset and a fireworks finale. For more information click here.

Para Spectacular and Veterans Day – 3 and 4 July 2010

This event began life as the Pompey Paras spectacular over twenty years ago. This year, for the second year running, its a two-day event and incorporates the Armed Forces and Veterans Day. It takes place on Southsea Common, and features a range of dislays, arena events, and parachute displays. According to the local media an Apache might even make an appearance! The day ends with a marchpast of veterans and a performance from the Parachute Regiment band. As the Grandson of a Para I always try and make an appearance if I can. For more information click here, and to see pictures of last years event click here.

Navy Days – 30 July to 01 August 2010

This biennial event takes place at Portsmouth Dockyard. Aimed at showcasing the Royal Navy past, present and future, we can expect a wide array of ships, displays, arena events, aerial and water displays, and a whole host of entertainment. Already confirmed to appear are HMS Daring and Dauntless, the two new Type 45 Destroyers; RFA Argus, an aviation training and casualty receiving ship; two Type 23 Frigates; HMS Cattistock, a mine-countermeasures vessel; HMS Tyne, a fishery patrol vessel; and HMS Gleaner, an inshore survey launch. Nearer the event we can also expect some foreign warships to be announced. As well as the modern ships visitors will be able to see all the usual attractions of the historic dockyard. The Royal Marines band will be performing, along with the Royal Signals white helmets motorcycle display team, and the Brickwoods Field Gun competition. In the air, the Royal Navy Black Cats helicopter display team will appear, along with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, and the Royal Artillery Black Knights Parachute Display team. Looks like a great day out. For more infomation click here.

Shoreham Airshow – 21 to 22 August 2010

The last event of the year is the annual Battle of Britain airshow at Shoreham airport. Headlining the show this year are contributions from the RAF, in the shape of a Harrier GR9, Hawk T1, Tucano T1, King Air, Grob Tutor, the Lancaster, Spitifire and Hurricane of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and the Falcons parachute display team (saturday only). On Sunday the Red Devils Parachute Display team will be performing. A wide array of civilian displays are expected – Hawker Hunter, Folland Gnats, BAC Strikemaster, De Havilland Vampire, Catalina Flying Boat, a large number of Spitfires and Hurricanes, B-17 Flying Fortress, and a number of aerobatic displays. As well as the aerial displays there are always a wide range of static displays, including from the armed forces, and re-enactors. I’ve been the past two years and always had a great time. For more information click here.

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Filed under airshow, Army, d-day, Dockyard, event, maritime history, Music, Navy, out and about, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines, Uncategorized

World at War weekend at Fort Nelson

I’ve just got back from the World at War weekend at Fort Nelson.

The main event involved an re-enactment of a raid on a fort on the Franco-German border in late 1944. The British had captured the fort, and a scouting force had left the fort on a patrol. A German force entered the fort, killed the commanding officer and set up an ambush.

The British troops – of the Devonshire and Hampshire Regiments – returned, in a half-track and on foot. Suddenly the Germans fired a Panzerschrek at the half-track, and ambushed the British. Returning fire, the British were hard pressed. Reinforcements arrived in the shape of an American patrol, a British airborne anti-tank gun, and a Royal Artillery Sexton Self propelled gun. With the extra firepower the British eventually assaulted the German positions, clearing the fort and taking them prisoner. Although slightly fanciful, interpretations such as this make great watching for kids and adults alike.

I also watched a brilliant interpretation of the Cockleshell Heroes raid – Operation Frankton – based on the recollections of Marine Bill Sparks, one of the survivors of the raid. Again, brilliant to watch.

There were also a whole host of military vehicles on display – including a number of Second World War Jeeps, with one in British Airborne Recce markings, and another marked as a Red Army lend-lease Jeep. There was also a British Army truck in 2nd Army markings, and a US Army truck.

Also outside were a number of post-war British vehicles. There were a number of Land Rovers, including a Bomb Disposal, and a couple of lightweights. Interestingly, there was also a Humber Pig, an armoured vehicle used in Northern Ireland, in the markings of J (Sidi Rezegh) Battery, 3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. Two of my uncles served in J Battery in the 1970′s.

Fort Nelson is definitely one of the best-kept secrets about local military history. There’s always plenty of events going on up there, and you only have to pay to go in on special event days. How many people live only a mile or two away but don’t even know that exists?

Click here to look at my Flickr photo album

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New evidence shows HMS Victory was afloat in 1933 (Hoax!)

UPDATE – Sorry to disappoint everyone, but I’ve now found out that this was an April Fools Day Hoax!

New evidence discovered in the Royal Naval Museum’s archives has shown that HMS Victory, Nelson’s Flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, was afloat in 1933 for that year’s Navy Week.

HMS Victory afloat for Navy week 1933

HMS Victory afloat for Navy week 1933

While researching Navy Days the Museum’s Head Curator found a logbook kept by a young officer onboard HMS Hood, the famous battlecruiser that was based in Portmouth at the time:

‘The entire Gunroom has had the good fortune to be appointed to the … Victory, which is due to sail for a fortnight’s cruise.’

Previously it had been thought that Victory had entered dry dock in 1922, and had remained there ever since. This fascinating new evidence suggests that in fact 11 years later, with a degree of towing, she managed to sail as far as Dover. The young officer commented further:

‘the greatest advantage gained in this fortnight is the unique experience of how a square-rigged ship – especially the old heavy bluff-bowed type – was handled’

Navy Week began in 1927, and was the forerunner of Navy Days. This years event takes place from 30 July to 1 August in Portsmouth Naval Base.

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Navy Days: then and now

After this week’s announcement about Navy Days 2010, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at Navy Days over the years. It’s very much a Portsmouth institution, theres nowhere else where you can see so much of the Royal Navy’s past and present in one place all together. Not only is it a great day out but it’s also a great chance for the Royal Navy to showcase what it does.

Not only does Navy Days tell us about the History of the Royal Navy, it is a part of Naval History itself. They have been taking place for many years – I’ve seen posters advertising Navy Days dating back to the early 20th Century, showing rows of battleships decked out in flags. My Granddad can remember going just after the war, and watching Fairey Swordfish Biplanes attacking ships with bags of flour. I can remember my Gran telling me about going on the US Warships, and the American sailors serving up hot dogs!

I first went to Navy Days in June 1994. It was the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, and there were plenty of interesting Royal Navy and foreign warships in the Harbour, to take part in the International Fleet Review later that week. I can remember going on HMS Ilustrious, and plenty of Destroyers and Minesweepers. I can also remember seeing the US Cruiser USS Normandy, and the wartime liberty ship Jeremiah O’Brien. But what I remember most of all is my dad showing me round the Dockyard that he worked in, explaining how the Docks and caissons worked, and pointing out the parts of the ships that he worked on – ‘oh look, there’s number two weapons shop!’ and ‘that’s number three basin!’ sounds quite impressive when you’re 11!

The last time I went to Navy Days was in 2008. What I remember most from then is the foreign warships – Japanese, Chilean, Danish and French. It was interesting to have a look at HMS Ilustrious again 14 years later, and the Landing Ship RFA Largs Bay was a rare visitor to Portsmouth. And of course theres nothing quite like watching the Royal Marines Band close the day.

I’m looking forward to Navy Days already. I had a sneak peak of HMS Daring last year at the Royal Navy past and present event, and she really is something else. It’s a long time since RFA Argus has been in Portsmouth too. A former merchant vessel that served in the Falklands War before becoming and RFA ship, it will be a rare opportunity to visit a Falklands veteran. Hopefully we can expect to see some foreign warships too.

To watch a British Pathe newsreel clip of Portsmouth Navy Days 1969, click here!

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Line-up announced for Navy Days 2010

The Royal Navy’s two newest warships are set to take part in the Royal Navy’s annual showcase this summer, alongside historic ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.

The first two Type 45 Destroyers, HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, will be open to visitors during Navy Days 2010 in Portsmouth Dockyard, between Friday 30 July and Sunday 1 August. As well as Royal Navy ships a number of vessels from foreign navies are also expected to visit Portsmouth for the event. Other ships on display will include two Type 23 Frigates. A rare visitor will be RFA Argus, a helicopter training and casualty recieving ship. She is one of the only ships in the world to have a CT scanner fitted among her medical facilities. She served in the Falklands war as a civilian ship, before being taken into RFA service.

Captain Paul Lemkes, Deputy Naval Base Commander, said: “Navy Days is a fantastic opportunity for the Royal Navy to be able to show the public, close up, the capabilities it contributes to UK Defence. I am particularly delighted that we are planning to have two Type 45 destroyers on show in their home port so that visitors will be able to see how the Royal Navy is maintaining its place at the forefront of maritime operations with this cutting edge class of warship. I am sure that RFA Argus will be a big hit with visitors too. She is a one-off ship with a very special capability and does not often get the chance to have the public on board.”

As well as ships many other displays are planned. The Royal Navys Black Cats helicopter team, the Royal Signals White Helmets motorcyle display team, the Royal Artillery Black Knights parachute team, the Royal Navy Dive Team and a Field Gun competition are just some of the displays already confirmed, with more expected.

Events such as this are absolutely crucial to the Royal Navy. Now more than ever it is important for the armed forces to work hard to let the general public know what they do. Especially the Royal Navy, who might expect severe cuts in the upcoming Defence Review. While operation commitments are important, it is also important for the Navy to pull out all the stops to put on a first-class show. The RAF, ever publicity savvy, would not miss a chance to showcase itself. It would be really good to see a bigger ‘headline’ act. Fingers crossed!

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Navy Days back in Portsmouth for 2010

The annual Navy Days is set to return to Portsmouth Dockyard in 2010, reports the Portsmouth Evening News.

The event, running from Friday 30 July until Sunday 1 August, will see several warships on show, including one of the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 Destroyers. There will be other Royal Navy ships, some from foreign Navies and other water-based displays. There will also be aircraft displays over the harbour.

The 2010 Navy Day’s will be what the organisers are calling a ‘trimmed down’ version of 2008′s ‘Meet your Navy’ event, where more than 30,000 people filled the Dockyard. They are hoping to generate the same level of interest as in 2008, but how they will do this with a ‘trimmed down’ version remains to be seen. To be a big draw it really has to have an Aircraft Carrier on display if possible, and one or two ships that don’t normally come to Portsmouth, such as HMS Ocean or one of the assault ships, and some interesting foreign ships.

Events like this are crucial for the Navy, so often the silent service in terms of promoting itself. The old style Navy Days events used to be hugely popular, until they were scrapped as a cost-cutting measure. And of course, sadly, we don’t really have that many ships to look at any more. Since the mid-90′s the Navy has made do with some version of smaller event in Devonport or Portsmouth every other year.

But in a time of looming budget cuts and debate over Britain’s defence policies, if the Navy wants to play to its strengths then it has to be proactive about engaging with the public and inform the wider world of its work.

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Dauntless arrives in Portsmouth

HMS Dauntless, shown here in the Clyde

HMS Dauntless, shown here in the Clyde

HMS Dauntless, the second of the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 Destroyers, arrived in Portsmouth today.

After a short delivery from the BAe system yard at Scotstoun on Clyde, Dauntless spent last night moored at Spithead, before weighing anchor and steaming into the harbour at 11am today. Sadly there was no flypast or any kind of event made of the occasion, which would have been an ideal time to ‘fly the flag’ for the Navy. The Army or the RAF would probably not have missed such an opportunity to show off a new fighter or a new vehicle.

Dauntless is the second in a batch of six ships. The first, HMS Daring, arrived in Portsmouth earlier this year. The Royal Navy is due to take delivery of the next four ships at the rate of one a year for the next four years. The rest of the class – Defender, Duncan, Dragon and Diamond – are all under construction. They will replace the rapidly ageing fleet of Type 42 Destroyers, which first entered service almost 35 years ago.

As impressive as they look, and as great as it is to finally see some new Destroyers for the Navy, several problems still remain. Six is nowhere near enough, by anyones standards. There will only realistically ever be 2 available at any one time for deployment, maybe 3 at a push. After originally planning for 12, the order was cut first to 10, then to 8, and finally to 6. These cuts are thought to have been in order to secure funding in the long term for the planned new aircraft carriers.

Also, the new Sea Viper missile, although being trumpeted by sources as a very capable missile, has not even been test fired yet. Dauntless is due to test fire it for the first time during her sea trials. Apart from raising the obvious question of why Daring has not been tasked to test it – what else is a lead ship for? – until the missile has been proven the Type 45′s are the worlds most advanced air control ships.

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HMS Lancaster heads to the Gulf

HMS Lancaster

HMS Lancaster

HMS Lancaster sailed out of Portsmouth today on a 7 month deployment to the Middle East. She previously only returned from 6 months in the Northern Gulf in late February. After an 8 month period of maintenance, training and trials, she is back out again.

If any evidence that the Navy is overstretched, and that it is madness to cut the number of Frigates and Destroyers, this is it. Previously it would have been unheard of to send a ship and its crew on two long deployments within the space of a year.

In times gone by many Royal Navy ships spent years away at sea, when we maintained fleets abroad around the Empire. But in modern times, we have little need to send our servicemen away for so long, and in any case our ships simply arent designed to spend more than 6 months away from Port. Modern warships are higher in technology and require much more maintenance.

That our ships are being expected to carry such a workload shows how underfunded and overstretched our Armed Forces are.

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