HMS Bulwark’s visit to Greenwich was part of her ceremonial duties to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Marines, whose duty was to restrain naval crews and defend or even attack aggressors. (Today’s shipping around the Horn of Africa is indeed in need of such specialist skills.) ‘The pride of the Royal Navy’ – so quotes ‘Royal Greenwich Time’ in their welcoming front page article. This sizeable vessel had to squeeze through the Thames Barrier, go about to reverse into her pre-formed moorings at Greenwich Tier Buoys, which had been adjusted by the PLA for such an occasion. The three accompanying tugs had the complicated task of sliding her in and out of the six yellow buoys. Two work boats based in Woolwich and Erith, with their agile and experienced watermen, made fast the heavy hawsers while a bevy of Bulwark’s own craft stood by.
I was lucky indeed to see both her arrival and her dawn departure. The emotional procedures and historical relevance was very much apparent for this follower of naval tradition. As dusk fell, the sequence of flag ceremony was played out by her naval crew and the Royal Marines. The planned ceremonial occasions attended by the good and the great of the Allies on the Normandy beaches will be very emotional and HMS Bulwark will show the flag in great style.
Preparation for her departure meant the gang planks and large pontoons which carried the many visitors boarding the great, bulky vessel had to be moved aside as dusk fell. The glimpse of a crescent moon over Deptford added to the drama!
It was from close to here where Henry VIII saw the first naval ship built. As the ORNC chapel bell marked the hour, my thoughts were to ponder whether President Putin might tread Bulwark’s upper decks to view the D-Day gathering. Am I right to recall his presence on a Russian man of war to celebrate Peter the Great a few years ago? You never know… or was it in my dreams?
I am led to believe that a planning model of the D Day beaches was installed in the Trident Hall (next to the Trafalgar Tavern and opposite the RNC) Does anyone know about this?