Eight Royal Navy warships have completed their time in the spotlight after flying the flag for Britain at Europe’s biggest public event.
Fresh from participation in the largest military exercise of the year in the Baltic, the bulk of the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force – an international task group spearheaded by flagship HMS Albion – headed to Germany for Kiel Week, the annual celebration of sea and seafaring.
As the US-led Baltops exercise had just ended, there was a sizeable number of what the Germans call “grey guests” at this year’s event: three dozen vessels from a dozen nations, including eight Royal Navy – flagship Albion, frigates Kent and Westminster, minehunter Ramsey and four P2000s (Ranger, Smiter, Blazer and Express) – plus the military ferry Hurst Point.
Other elements of the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force put into other Baltic ports – Warnemunde and Rostock, further east along the German coast. Albion fired a 21-gun salute as she arrived in Kieler Bucht, paying her respects as the assault ship passed the imposing German Naval Memorial at Laboe on the eastern shore of the bay.
The monument then received a visit from sailors from across the RN task group, led by the men and women of HMS Kent. The 280ft red brick tower – shaped in the form of a sail – is to German sailors what the naval memorials at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth are to the Royal Navy, rising above a hall of remembrance where wreaths were laid on behalf of the Senior Service and other navies participating in the Kiel Week.
The nine-day celebration of the sea and the ships and men and women who sail on it is one of the world’s largest maritime festivals and the largest public event in northern Europe this summer, pulling in 3½ million visitors.
Some 1,600 of those filed around Albion for her ‘ship open’ event; German tourists also had a good look around Westminster, Kent and minehunter Ramsey which also allowed the public over their gangways.
As Kiel is Germany’s principal naval base, there were highest-level talks between various NATO and partner navies. Other collaborative events for participating navies including am international gathering of ratings, five-a-side football and rugby 7s tournaments, shooting, archery and golf competitions to the ultimate test for any sailor in the International Maritime All-Around Competition there was something for everyone and the chance for Brits to test themselves against counterparts from Germany, Denmark, Poland, US and Turkey.
Although Kiel Week continues for a few more days, the task group has left the port and is now gearing up for the third and final phase of the Baltic Protector deployment, with a packed schedule of training across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
MOD press release issued 26th June. Words and images copyright UK MOD