FolkestoneJack's Tracks

BOA 70: The grand departure

Posted in England, Liverpool by folkestonejack on May 28, 2013

The final event of the Battle of the Atlantic commemorations was to be a co-ordinated departure by all the warships, minus the Gromitz and Vice-Admiral Kulakov which left yesterday. The expectation was that this would be a major crowd-puller and the local transport network had been readied in anticipation of this. One sign warned of gridlock on the roads resulting from the thousands expected to drive to the riverside to watch the ships leave. Unfortunately, the utterly miserable weather forecast for Tuesday deterred many from venturing out and invariably made for a challenging day of photography. Gridlock was not a feature…

I had originally planned to go go out to Fort Perch Rock or the surrounding area, but in light of the poor forecast headed over to Seacombe and then walked along to Woodside. Ironically, the best views came from the warships sailing the wrong way – to their gathering point in the Mersey – rather than the actual departure in heavy rain! It was remarkable to see a healthy turnout by the riverside in spite of the conditions, though heavily wrapped up in waterproof layers. I found myself a sheltered spot under a few trees and occasionally ventured out to take photographs – retreating to the dry after each soaking.

HMS Bulwark heads upriver to take her position at the head of the co-ordinated departure

HMS Bulwark heads upriver to take her position at the head of the co-ordinated departure

It is not often that you see a line of warships heading out to sea, so I don’t regret coming to see the final act of the commemorations, but I was under no illusions that the resulting photographs would be up to much! I really couldn’t imagine what a convoy of over fifty ships must have looked like departing Liverpool during wartime – nor how the crews must have felt at the prospect of the atlantic. It puts the certainties of life today into some perspective.

It was quite a relief when the last ship faded from view and I could return to the excellent Museum of Liverpool and Liverpool Maritime Museum to indulge in some self-education in the dry. The Maritime Museum’s exhibition on the Battle of the Atlantic was quite fascinating, taking me over an hour to view. It is well worth a visit.

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BOA 70: Vice Admiral Kulakov leaves Liverpool

Posted in England, Liverpool by folkestonejack on May 27, 2013

The veteran Udaloy class destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov was one of the more intriguing visitors to the Battle of the Atlantic commemorations in Liverpool. The destroyer was laid down on 4th November 1977 and launched on 16th May 1980, serving with the Northern Fleet until March 1991. After a lengthy layoff for repairs, the destroyer returned to active service in late 2010.

RFS Vice Admiral Kulakov heads out of Liverpool

Udaloy class destroyer RFS Vice Admiral Kulakov

The Russian ship certainly gives the impression that she is built for battle, with banks of missile launchers dominating at the front of the ship. The ship was open to visitors for two afternoons during the commemorations with a Ka-27 helicopter brought out for display. It has to be said that the crew were impossible to miss around town, coping incredibly well with their new found stardom and posing for an endless number of photographs!

RFS Vice Admiral Kulakov

RFS Vice Admiral Kulakov heads out of Liverpool

Unfortunately, operational demands called the destroyer away from the commemorations earlier than expected. This required something of a juggling act on the Mersey as the THV Patricia (berthed alongside) moved out of the way to allow the Russian ship to depart with the assistance of a couple of tugs. Finally, on a fairly wet Monday lunchtime the destroyer headed back out into the Irish Sea.

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BOA 70: HMS Edinburgh returns to her maker

Posted in England, Liverpool by folkestonejack on May 26, 2013

Over the three days of the commemorations Cammell Laird opened its gates to the public, for the first time in 20 years, to give a fitting farewell to HMS Edinburgh.

HMS Edinburgh in the wet dock at Cammell-Laird shipyard

HMS Edinburgh in the wet dock at Cammell-Laird shipyard

HMS Edinburgh was laid down at the Cammell Laird shipyard, Birkinhead, in July 1980 and she was launched on 14th April 1983. The largest of the Type 42 destroyers, HMS Edinburgh, is the last of her kind in active service with the Royal Navy.

On her return to her birthplace HMS Edinburgh has been berthed in the wet dock, where queues of around an hour formed to go on board. After leaving Liverpool, the final stop on her farewell tour is Portsmouth. The warship will be opened to the public for a final time over the weekend of 1st-2nd June before she is formally decommissioned on 6th June 2013.

RFA Fort Rosalie (A385) and RFA Wave Ruler (A390)

RFA Fort Rosalie (A385) and RFA Wave Ruler (A390)

Although we only got a glimpse of a small section of the shipyard, it looked like a fascinating place which clearly holds alot of history. In World War II the shipyard produced nearly 200 vessels in support of the UK war effort, including HMS Ark Royal, the aircraft carrier sunk off Gibraltar by a u-boat in November 1941.

Today’s shipyard visit also offered the sight of two ships undergoing maintenance: RFA Fort Rosalie (A385), a fleet stores ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and RFA Wave Ruler (A390), a fast fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

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BOA 70: Morning reflections

Posted in England, Liverpool by folkestonejack on May 26, 2013

A bright burst of sunlight on the Sunday prompted a wonderful morning walk, taking in the sights of the Liverpool waterfront with barely a soul in sight (understandable, given that it was not quite 6am when I started my circular route from Albert Dock to the Liverpool Cruise Terminal and back again). The three archer class patrol ships in Albert Dock looked particularly wonderful, particularly on my return as the rising sun illuminated them perfectly. The water was perfectly still, providing a perfect mirror for a reflection of the ships.

HMS Archer, HMS Pursuer and HMS Charger in Albert Dock

HMS Archer, HMS Pursuer and HMS Charger in Albert Dock

Apart from mad photographers the only souls around were those sailors on guard duty and a small army of marshals who were already getting organised for another day directing thousands of visitors on a one way system around the bottleneck of the bridge at the entrance to Canning Half Tide Dock. It was a well organised set up which seemed to work pretty smoothly during the heat of the day.

HMS Pembroke in Canning Half Tide Dock

HMS Pembroke in Canning Half Tide Dock

Mid-way through my walk I came across the memorial to the heroes of the marine engine room which was glinting magnificently in the sun, testament to the re-gilding that it had received as part of last year’s renovation. It is a truly beautiful memorial to the men of the engine room who died on the Titanic, Lusitania and other ships during the First World War.

After taking a fair number of photographs I headed back to our hotel, the perfectly located Premier Inn on Albert Dock, which I can strongly recommend to any other early rising photographers!

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BOA 70: Battle of the Mersey

Posted in England, Liverpool by folkestonejack on May 26, 2013

A naval capability demonstration took place on the Mersey on all three days of the Battle of the Atlantic commemorations, with a densely packed crowd lining the waterfront. The “Battle on the Mersey” followed the scenario of a merchant vessel (played by the tug Brocklebank) attacked by pirates. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines tackled the pirates with a Sea King helicopter, five patrol ships and two landing craft.

HMS Ranger on the Mersey

HMS Ranger passes the derelict wharf off Princes Parade

Opting for a quieter life, we found a spot away from the action to watch the ships lining up to participate on the first day and then headed across the water to Birkenhead for a different perspective. The footpath between Woodside and Birkenhead Priory offered plenty of space to watch proceedings and couldn’t be beaten for the wonderful backdrop of Liverpool’s cathedrals, docks and iconic waterfront architecture it offered.

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BOA 70: Warships on the waterfront

Posted in England, Liverpool by folkestonejack on May 26, 2013

The first two days of the Battle of the Atlantic 70th anniversary commemorations in Liverpool have attracted incredible crowds, drawn to the waterfront by an impressive gathering of warships, flypasts and military displays.

It was estimated that almost a quarter of a million visitors had visited over the weekend – encouraged by some of the best weekend weather of the year to date. This was all the more remarkable given the miserable weather that greeted most of the ships on their arrival and which is expected to return for their departure!

ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko at Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal

ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko at Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal

Five warships were open to the public in and around the Liverpool waterfront: HMS Pembroke (Canning Half Tide Dock), FGS Groemitz (Canning Dock), HMCS Iroquois (Cruise Liner Terminal), RTS Vice Admiral Kulakov (Cruise Liner Terminal) and ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko (Cruise Liner Terminal). In addition to this, there were a number of Royal Navy patrol ships in the Albert Dock along with the training ship TS Jack Petchey.

Liverpool Pilot 'Turnstone' passes HMCS Iroquois and ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko

Liverpool Pilot ‘Turnstone’ passes HMCS Iroquois and ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko

On the other side of the Mersey, in the Cammell Laird shipyard, HMS Edinburgh was also open to the public. Two more warships were berthed out of sight at the Alexandra Docks: HMS Bulwark and BNS Louise-Marie.

The queues to board the ships were pretty formidable but we managed to get a closer look at ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko and HMCS Iroquois. The Polish ship has an interesting past life – ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko was formerly USS Wadsworth (FFG-9) which featured in the film The Hunt for Red October.

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Sculptures at sunset

Posted in England, Liverpool by folkestonejack on May 25, 2013

I have long wanted to make the journey north to see ‘Another Place’, Antony Gormley’s remarkable collection of 100 identical sculptures set into the sands at Crosby Beach. The cast-iron, life-size statues have been distributed across the foreshore for three kilometres and stretch right out to sea.

Sculptures staring out to sea

Sculptures staring out to sea

I might have visited sooner had I realised quite how easy it was to reach the sculptures, with the beach just a twenty minute journey by train from the centre of Liverpool. The beach can be accessed from three stations and we opted for Blundellsands, which involves a walk of just under ten minutes to reach the sculptures.

Sculptures in the golden glow of sunset

Sculptures and wind turbines

As luck would have it, our visit coincided with low tide and we spent a good hour wandering around the nearest figures until the sun set. The tide must slowly have been making its way back in as the farthest statues were already half submerged. I could understand how unsuspecting visitors have mistaken these for drowning swimmers!

Sunset at Crosby Beach

Sunset at Crosby Beach

Each figure stands isolated from the other ninety-nine, staring resolutely out to sea, watching the occasional freighter pass by and the unending movement from a farm of wind turbines offshore. It is a strangely humbling sight, to see how small man is in the world and be reminded – like King Canute – how little power we have against time and tide.

More about the installation, with directions, can be found on the Sefton Council website.

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