Hundreds visit Cammell Laird to tour HMS Edinburgh during 70th anniversary of Battle of the Atlantic
Battle of the Atlantic weekend main sponsors Cammell Laird invited the general public inside the shipyard for the first time in two decades during commemorations to bid farewell to HMS Edinburgh.
Leading up to the event and during the weekend itself, Cammell Laird was featured in the national and regional media as they told the story of how the U-Boats were beaten (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-22649482). So it was poignant that at the same time a post-war Naval vessel, HMS Edinburgh, returned to her Birkenhead birthplace for the final time before she was decommissioned.
Hundreds of people took advantage of the rare opportunity to enter the shipyard in order to tour the vessel and experience what living conditions were like on the Royal Navy’s Type 42 Destroyers.
Lieutenant Commander Stuart Parry of HMS Edinburgh said: “We had a larger than expected turnout which was well received by my ship’s company. From our vantage point in the Cammell Laird Wet Basin we were also able to watch the events on the river which was an amazing spectacle to behold. It was an honour to be here for the commemoration.”
HMS Edinburgh was built in Birkenhead by Cammell Laird and was launched in 1983. She served the Navy with distinction, earning the moniker ‘Fortress of the Sea’. She is the final Type 42 Destroyer to be decommissioned as the Navy has now transferred to the modern Type 45.
And the crowds were keen to take one last look around the impressive vessel.
Cammell Laird chief executive John Syvret said the response was incredible: “Cammell Laird and Merseyside were on the frontline in one of the most important struggles of the war,” he said. “There is still a strong bond between the region and the Royal Navy and I think that was evident with the number of visitors we had.”
During World War Two Merseyside was the the focal point for the Royal Navy as it tended to damaged ships during the Battle of the Atlantic. Cammell Laird was a crucial part of the war effort, maintaining the Navy’s vessels as they fought the U-Boat threat over six years. Around 35,000 allied sailors lost their lives during the battle, which was the longest of the conflict.
Cammell Laird was the main sponsor of last weekend’s final commemoration of the battle. Among the stories to surface over the weekend was that of Londoner Fred King.
The 91-year-old was in the Royal Navy 70 years ago during the Battle of the Atlantic. While his ship was undergoing repairs at Cammell Laird he met a girl from Birkenhead. After the war they married and Fred stayed in Birkenhead, where he and his wife live to this day.
“We came into Clover Docks next to Cammell Laird and slept overnight for five days,” he said. “There was this young girl came out the first morning with a cup of tea and breakfast. That was the first time I met my wife.
“Every time we came ashore and I got permission to leave for a day I’d come over and enjoy the day in Birkenhead with her. We got married in 1943 at the YMCA in Whetstone Lane and I have lived here ever since.”