Multiple vessels in the Mersey to mark Battle of the Atlantic

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender and Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria are among the vessels coming to the Mersey to mark the Battle of the Atlantic 80th anniversary. Tony McDonough reports

HMS Defender
Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender is coming to Liverpool. Picture by Royal Navy


Multiple vessels including Cunard cruise vessel Queen Victoria and Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender will berth on the Mersey to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

They are just two of the number of ships that will be in the river for the commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. Starting on Friday, May 26, the main event will take place over three days.

Crucial to the outcome of the Second World War the Battle of the Atlantic lasted from 1939 to 1945 and cost an estimated 100,000 lives. Liverpool was home to the nerve centre of the Allied operations during the battle.

Regarded as the longest, largest, and most complex naval battle in history, it involved thousands of ships in more than 100 convoy battles and an estimated 1,000 single ship encounters.

As an island nation at war, the UK relied on more than a million tons of imported materials every week to survive and counter the enemy threat.

Liverpool and Cunard each played a pivotal role in the effort, the port city handling ships and their cargoes and housing the underground military nerve centre of operations, now the Western Approaches World War II Museum.

The weekend will get underway with a private service of commemoration at St Nick’s Church at the Pier Head. Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, will be the guest of honour at the service.

She will then unveil a new Battle of the Atlantic Memorial and garden of reflection – the first of its kind in the UK – in the church grounds.

In the evening a poignant light show beaming the names of ships and sailors into the skies – Atlantic Lights – will be switched on at Woodside for the first time.

On the weekend starting Friday, May 26, HMS Defender will be on the prime berth of the cruise liner terminal. It will be joined by French frigate Bretagne, and Trinity House vessel Patricia.

US destroyer USS Ramage will also call into Liverpool during the weekend. On the following weekend, Saturday, June 3, Queen Victoria will berth at the cruise terminal on a round Britain voyage.

There will be a special Cunard Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving at Liverpool Parish Church on the day of Queen Victoria’s call.

Both the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and vintage Fleet Air Arm Swordfish and Seafire aircraft will stage flypasts on all three days of the main event, weather permitting.

Ships will be open to visitors and a 1940s-themed military village will be located at the Pier Head.

Participating ships will open their gangways to the public on Saturday, May 27, and various activities will be staged in a ‘military village’ across Pier Head.

The village will feature equipment and a whole host of free family activities from the Royal Navy, Army, and RAF including Typhoon simulator, a Royal Navy VR speedboat simulator, climbing walls, bungee runs, a Spitfire replica, tanks, helicopters, and vintage military vehicles.

Extensive Battle of the Atlantic displays and special family activities will be open for visitors at Western Approaches Museum, and the Maritime Museum in the Royal Albert Dock.

Across the Mersey in Birkenhead, Cammell Laird shipyard will run a series of BoA80-themed tours around its yard to celebrate the efforts of shipbuilders in WW2.

Visitors will be given an exclusive behind-the-scenes commentary on board vintage buses supplied by Wirral Transport Museum on Saturday, May 27.

On Sunday May 28, there will be a Drumhead service of thanksgiving at midday at Pier Head followed at 1.30pm by a March for the Medals from Exchange Flags to Princes Parade.

This will see a group of Battle of the Atlantic veterans, now all in their 90s, take the salute from the marching troops.

Those who have family medals related to the Battle of the Atlantic campaign, or any other related Second World War campaign, are invited to wear them in honour of their loved ones.

The weekend’s commemorations will conclude with the visiting vessels sailing down the Mersey at 5pm, escorted by a convoy from the Mersey’s maritime community and a Beat Retreat played by His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band at Pier Head.

Events include an engaging programme of theatre, music and dance, including a Battle of the Atlantic themed variety show written and performed by students of Liverpool John Moores University.

Throughout the weekend, an outdoor stage at the Pier Head will host performances from 1940s and vintage style musicians. There will also be performances from 4th Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, the Royal Danish Navy band, as well as local cadet bands, drill and PT displays.

Over in Canning Dock, steamer Daniel Adamson (The Danny) will open its saloon to host folk shanty performances by Gerry Ffrench, Yesterday’s Men, and the Port Sunlight Seadogs, as well as Battle of the Atlantic talks by historian David Hearn and seafarer David McNamee.


Queen Victoria
Cunard’s Queen Victoria will berth at Liverpool Cruise Terminal. Picture by Tony McDonough
Daniel Adamson
Daniel Adamson, a steam vessel in Canning Dock. Picture by Tony McDonough


And on Saturday night, His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band is set to raise the roof with a special commemorative concert at the city’s Philharmonic Hall.

Chairman of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial charity, Gary Doyle, said: “No city is more connected with the Battle of the Atlantic than Liverpool, and there can be no more fitting a setting for these important 80thanniversary commemorations.

“The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest and most strategically important battle of the Second World War. If the allies had lost the fight, there’s little doubt that we would have lost the war.

“The death toll was – and still is – staggering. Tens of thousands of Merchant Navy, Royal Navy, and Allied Naval seamen, and thousands of RAF and allied aviators lost their lives in order to keep our supply lanes open and our families fed.

READ MORE: Cammell Laird converts £70m MoD support vessel

READ MORE: What will be the legacy of ‘best ever’ Eurovision?

“This 80th commemoration is extra-special because we will be joined by some of our Battle of the Atlantic veterans at events during the weekend, and they are without doubt the focus of the whole event.

Angus Struthers, senior vice president at Cunard, added: “In times of national need, Cunard ships and their crews have served the nation throughout our 183-year history, never more so than during World War II.

“Liverpool will forever be regarded as Cunard’s spiritual home and we are honoured that Queen Victoria’s call, and our Service at the Parish Church, can form part of the very special international events taking place to mark the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.”

Click here for more information on the Battle of the Atlantic commemoration

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.