International Fleet review

© 2005 FrontLine Defence (Vol 2, No 5)

June 2005 – Portsmouth, UK – At the invitation of the Royal Navy, about 160 vessels from more than 35 countries participated in a rare event that dates back 600 years.

Britain and the Royal Navy celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar with a number of events, including the International Fleet Review, as part of SeaBritain 2005 honouring Britain’s maritime heritage. 

HMCS Montreal represented Canada.

The last Fleet Review took place 28 years ago for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, with 19 nations taking part. This year’s Review included a wide variety of ­warships, merchant ships, tall ships, small private boats, helicopters and other aircraft in sail and flypasts.

In addition to commemorating the achievements of Admiral Lord Nelson and his victory at Trafalgar, Trafalgar 200 recognized the strong maritime bonds of friendship and heritage among so many countries.

The program included a Fleet Review by Her Majesty The Queen, a fly past, a sail past, an air display, a re-enact­ment of a 19th century sea battle, a fireworks display, and lighting up of “The Fleet.”

The French Navy sent the largest contingent (six ships), and also the biggest ship, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. 

One of the highlights of the celebrations included the re-enactment of a 19th century sea Battle

HMCS Montreal was fortunate to be one of the five ships to follow Her Majesty as she reviewed the lines of vessels. This gave all onboard the Canadian ship an insight into the old Anglo-French rivalry (at this time London and Paris were also competing to stage the 2012 Olympic Games). As the Queen passed the Charles de Gaulle fired off a 21-gun salute and then broadcast the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. The Royal Marines on HMS Endurance responded with the unmistakable Monty Python theme tune. I was too far away, on the Montreal, to see Her Majesty smile, but Prince Philip could be seen throwing his head back in laughter.

On 20 October this year, the actual anniversary of the battle, there will be a commemoration of the victory and of Nelson’s death. Just as the news was flashed across England then, bonfires will be lit, followed by a national service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.    

– Peter Pigott