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NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011 Havana good time

● HMS Manchester, in Procedure Alpha, passes Che Guevara’s house as the ship enters Havana

THE last Royal Navy ship to go alongside in Havana was commissioned during World War 2 and found a country in the throes of civil strife, with young revolutionary Fidel Castro edging closer to the overthrow of the ruling Batista regime. So when HMS Manchester became the first ship to fly the White Ensign in a Cuban port since HMS Bigbury Bay in 1957, there was a palpable sense of history in the warm Caribbean air.

was established early, as the ship arrived to a Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces Guard of Honour and military band, which played both the Cuban and British national anthems. Waiting on the jetty were the

The tone of the five-day visit

Historic visit for HMS Manchester

most famous tourist attractions. Every ship that visits Havana is requested to lay a wreath at

national hero Jose Marti and Manchester was no exception.

the statue of Cuban

British Ambassador to Cuba, Dianna Melrose, and the head of the Cuban Revolutionary Navy, as well as numerous members of the international and local press. The main reason for Manchester’s visit to Havana was to strengthen the collaboration between the UK and Cuba, in particular on the shared priorities of counter-narcotics work and humanitarian disaster response. From the moment the destroyer

arrived in Cuba, the meetings and events did not stop, with the ship’s company being offered numerous opportunities to visit Havana’s

Accompanying Commanding Officer Cdr Rex Cox was the Ambassador, the Head of the Cuban Revolutionary Navy, the Jamaican-based Defence Attaché and an 18-man marching platoon of British sailors. Two members of the Cuban

Revolutionary Armed Forces laid a wreath at the foot of the statue on behalf of Manchester. A remembrance

by Manchester’s bish, Rev Mark Allsopp, was held in the Colon Cemetery, a Commonwealth cemetery in Havana in which a number of British and Canadian Service graves lie.

service led

was held on board for invited dignitaries including Cuba’s first

On the first evening, a reception

seats, Manchester’s Commanding Officer Cdr Rex Cox said: “As the driver of a classic lady and sports car of the ocean I am chuffed to bits that HMS Manchester is affiliated with Aston Martin, and am particularly grateful to Aston Martin for marking the affiliation with such style” Two

were held, the first hosted by the Cuban Ministry of Defence and attended by 20 members of the ship’s company attending, while the second was hosted by the Ambassador at her residence. Another first for the RN was the opportunity to open the ship’s upper decks to the Havana public, with sailors on hand to answer questions. Having been widely publicised in local newspapers and TV and radio broadcasts, queues started building an hour before opening, and around 1,000 people spent some time on the little

British sovereign territory in their capital city – such was the demand that opening times had to be extended by 45 minutes to ensure

● Smiles all round as HMS Manchester returns to Portsmouth in the sunshine

Warm welcome

A WARM welcome on a cold day awaited HMS Manchester as she entered Portsmouth Harbour at the end of an eventful seven-month deployment to the Caribbean. Two major drugs busts put the

veteran destroyer in the headlines, as did her help in clearing up a St Lucian community battered by Hurricane Tomas. But there was much more hit the media – the

that didn’t

diplomatic support in island nations around the region, the deterrent effect of anti-narcotic patrols, the work done by volunteers in local communities, to name but a few. As well as Hurricane Tomas, the destroyer also shadowed predecessors Earl and Igor across the region,

using her Lynx helicopter to give island

authorities an aerial view of the damage done.

All the while her sailors arranged

charity events to collect money for Broughton House in Manchester, a hospice for ex-Service personnel – more than £2,000 has been raised, which will be presented when the ship visits the city shortly. Commanding Officer Cdr Rex

Cox said: “HMS Manchester has had a busy deployment and has been involved in a wide range of tasks from intercepting drugs bound for the UK, to helping the hurricane-battered people of St Lucia in their hour of need. “The ship’s company have

performed magnificently and risen to every challenge in the finest traditions of the ‘Mighty Manch’ and the Royal Navy – I am immensely proud of them.”

Picture: LA(Phot) Kyle Heller slice of subsequent receptions Of the hand-stitched leather patrol.

surprising as it is one of two Aston Martin racing seats built and installed by technicians from the luxury car maker specially for the

General de Brigada Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez. The spaceman found the Captain’s chair particularly to his

liking – hardly cosmonaut,

no one was disappointed. Off-duty sailors took the chance to look at Cuban culture, with the two most popular tours based on the writer Ernest Hemingway and the Cuban cigar and rum industry. The

Havana have significant historical significance, and official tours were organised for the ship’s company. These included several re-enactments and a presentation of the cannon fire ceremony that signalled the closure of the city gates at sunset each day during the Spanish occupation of the city. A competitive football match against the Cuban Naval Academy resulted in a 2-0 win for Manchester. Cdr Cox said: “It has been an honour to be the first RN warship to visit Havana since before the Cuban Revolution, some 53 years ago.

forts that surround

● Cuba’s first cosmonaut, General de Brigada Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, tries out the captain’s Aston Martin chair

“We have been looking forward to this visit and have been overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome we received from the people of Havana.” The Ambassador added:

“We are delighted that HMS Manchester’s visit to Havana was such a success. “It gave us access to influential military figures, chief

the goodwill created by the visit should help us further counter- narcotics collaboration and wider UK Government objectives. “The 1,000 or so Cuban of


queued to go on board, as well as British tourists I talked to – and 200,000 or so visit Cuba each year – were delighted to see the White Ensign flying in Havana Bay.”

the public who

● Castro turf – POET Robbie Robertson (left) and AB Sam Patterson, in yellow, take on the Cuban Naval Academy

● Mancs and a Scouser – the destroyer’s Guard with the statue of a Beatle in Havana’s Parque John Lennon

of the Cuban Navy, and including the


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