UKHMS Bulwark visits home of German Navy

The Roy­al Navy’s flag­ship HMS Bul­wark has paid an unex­pect­ed vis­it to the home of the Ger­man Navy after win­ter weath­er thwart­ed efforts to vis­it the country’s great­est port.

HMS Bul­wark along­side in Kiel naval base [Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Mar­tin Car­ney, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge
Some of HMS Bulwark’s ship’s com­pa­ny vis­it­ed the Com­mon­wealth War Graves ceme­tery out­side Kiel naval base which con­tains the graves of Roy­al Navy and RAF per­son­nel who lost their lives dur­ing the Sec­ond World War [Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Mar­tin Car­ney, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Ice on the Riv­er Elbe meant that HMS Bul­wark could not sail into Ham­burg as planned at the begin­ning of her win­ter mini-deploy­ment (which was a diap­point­ment to the peo­ple of Ham­burg appar­ent­ly as the city’s prin­ci­pal news­pa­per, the Abend­blatt, was very keen to see the assault ship). 

Indeed, the cold snap dom­i­nat­ing north­ern Europe meant few of Germany’s ports were open — but Kiel was, so Bul­wark passed through the Kiel Canal link­ing the North Sea with the Baltic and made land­fall in the home of the Deutsche Marine (Ger­man Navy). 

Bulwark’s sur­prise vis­it excit­ed the local media — who prompt­ly dubbed her the Eis-Flüchtling (ice refugee) and cel­e­brat­ed the appear­ance of ‘a behe­moth in Tir­pitz Harbour’. 

It was a balmy zero degrees Cel­sius in the snow-cov­ered Baltic port — enough to make the waters pass­able for the Devon­port-based war­ship and to encour­age her Roy­al Marines Com­man­dos to go for a run around the city in T‑shirts (more sen­si­ble mem­bers of the ship’s com­pa­ny donned warmer attire for their keep fit sessions). 

Bul­wark has spent the past few days at the naval base and the unsched­uled vis­it to Kiel gave the ship’s com­pa­ny the chance to pay their respects to their forebears. 

The Kiel Nord­fried­hof Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion ceme­tery is the last rest­ing place of 983 British per­son­nel who were killed in the Sec­ond World War. 

The dead are most­ly from RAF bomb­ing raids — as one of the Third Reich’s prin­ci­pal naval bases Kiel was sub­ject­ed to fero­cious attacks which lev­elled much of the city. 

In addi­tion to fall­en air­men, how­ev­er, there are numer­ous naval per­son­nel laid to rest there, not least many of the 127 souls lost when destroy­er HMS Esk sank after hit­ting a mine off the Dutch coast on 1 Sep­tem­ber 1940. 

Bulwark’s Com­mand­ing Offi­cer laid a wreath at the cen­tral mon­u­ment in the ceme­tery, which was blan­ket­ed in snow, cre­at­ing a won­der­ful­ly peace­ful atmos­phere for the solemn occasion. 

On a lighter note, Kiel was the first port of call for Bulwark’s unof­fi­cial mas­cot, a ted­dy bear donat­ed by the peo­ple of her affil­i­at­ed coun­ty of Durham when the ship vis­it­ed last year. 

Very imag­i­na­tive­ly named ‘Ted­dy’, the stuffed toy was giv­en a tour of the port and posed with junior Ger­man offi­cers. He’ll also be putting in an appear­ance at var­i­ous oth­er ports and loca­tions as Bul­wark con­tin­ues her flag­ship duties. 

Next stop for Bul­wark is the Pol­ish port of Gdy­nia on the west­ern shores of Gdan­sk Bay where she’s due to arrive on Fri­day for a four-day vis­it (weath­er and ice per­mit­ting) and will throw open her gang­way this week­end for two days of tours for the Pol­ish public. 

Bulwark’s using her jour­ney around the Baltic to accli­ma­tise to the cold. 

Next month the flag­ship leads British input to Exer­cise Cold Response, NATO’s win­ter war games in the fjords and val­leys of north­ern Nor­way — where tem­per­a­tures can drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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