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Battle of the Atlantic: Everything you need to know for Liverpool’s celebrations

1 year ago

Battle of the Atlantic: Everything you need to know for Liverpool’s celebrations
Liverpool is preparing to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic Picture by Gareth Jones

This year’s 80th commemoration holds a special significance as veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic will be attending.

Liverpool is set to come alive with a weekend of adventure and excitement as the city commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

There’ll be fun and action on land, sea, and in the skies, as celebrations take place to mark the longest, hardest naval battle in history, which marked a turning point in World War II; to thank those servicemen who took part and pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

Chairman of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Charity, Gary Doyle, said:

“No city is more connected with the Battle of the Atlantic than Liverpool, and there can be no more fitting a setting for these important 80th anniversary commemorations.  

“The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest and most strategically important battle of the Second World War. If the allies had lost the fight, there’s little doubt that we would have lost the war. The death toll was – and still is – staggering.” 

The 80th commemoration is, he adds, extra-special because it will be attended by Battle of the Atlantic veterans.

“It is perhaps the last major commemorative opportunity we will have to come together to say thank you to those remarkable men and women, and to celebrate their great effort and achievement, in the pleasure of their company. We hope the whole of Merseyside will get behind what we are doing and turn out to join us.” 


With so much going on, here’s everything you need to know:

When does the event take place?

The 80th Battle of the Atlantic Commemorations take place over the Bank Holiday weekend, from Friday, May 26 to Sunday, May 28.

Where will it take place?

May 27th military village at the pier head
May 27th military village at the pier head

There’ll be a packed programme of events across the city and Birkenhead, including Liverpool John Moores University and the Western Approaches Museum, but most of the activity will take place at the Pier Head where a 1940s-themed military village – open between 10am and 6pm – will be created.

What was the Battle of the Atlantic?

Waged from the very first day of WWII to the very last, The Battle of the Atlantic was the struggle between the Allied and German forces for control of the Atlantic Ocean. The Allies needed to keep the vital flow of men and supplies going between North America and Europe, where they could be used in the fighting, while the Germans wanted to cut these supply lines. The Battle of the Atlantic is commemorated on the weekend closest to May 24, the date in 1943 when the Germans conceded they were beaten in the Atlantic.

Ships ahoy on Friday, May 26

HMS Defender Credit: Ben Corbett
HMS Defender Credit: Ben Corbett

Merchant and Naval ships and will sail into Liverpool on Friday Morning to raise the curtain on the weekend of events. The vessels will be led by Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender, and joining that on the prime berth of the Cruise Liner Terminal will be the French frigate Bretagne, and Trinity House Vessel Patricia. The American destroyer USS Ramage will also call into Liverpool during the weekend. The vessels will provide an impressive backdrop to events on and over the Mersey, while their sailors will join in commemorative events ashore. 

HRH The Princess Royal to unveil new national memorial

The weekend will get underway with a private service of commemoration at St Nick’s Church at the Pier Head on Friday. Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal will be guest of honour at the service which will acknowledge the sacrifice of the thousands of UK and allied sailors involved in the Battle of the Atlantic, both merchant and military. After the church service, she will unveil a new Battle of the Atlantic Memorial and garden of reflection – the first of its kind in the UK – in the church grounds. 

In the evening a poignant light show beaming the names of ships and sailors into the skies – Atlantic Lights – will be switched on at Woodside for the first time.

Village life at the Pier Head

HMS Defender and the French frigate Bretagne will be open to visitors, welcoming members of the public on board throughout Saturday and Sunday. 

The village will feature equipment and a host of free family activities from the Royal Navy, Army, and RAF including a Typhoon simulator, a Royal Navy VR speedboat simulator, climbing walls, bungee runs, a Spitfire replica, tanks, helicopters, and vintage military vehicles.

Throughout the weekend, there’ll be an outdoor stage at the Pier Head hosting performances from 1940s and vintage style musicians and performers including The Soldiers of Swing, The Lahdidah’s, The Swing Cats, Mersey Swing, Joanne Dennis and Hattie Bee. Sea Shanty band The Jack Tars, will also perform.

Visitors to the waterfront will also be able to enjoy performances from 4th Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, the Royal Danish Navy band, as well as local cadet bands, drill and PT displays.

In Canning Dock, Art Deco steamer The Danny Adamson will open its saloon to host folk shanty performances by Gerry Ffrench, Yesterday’s Men, and the Port Sunlight Seadogs, as well as Battle of the Atlantic talks by historian David Hearn and seafarer David McNamee.

Western Approaches Museum

Sefton Sea Cadets with John Dennett
Sefton Sea Cadets with John Dennett

The extensive Battle of the Atlantic displays and special family activities will be open for visitors at Western Approaches Museum at Derby House in Exchange Flags. It was on February 7, 1941, that ‘Combined Operations’ moved to Derby House because German aircraft and U-boats were attacking ships travelling in from the continent.

The department, Western Approaches Command, monitored the rectangular area of the Atlantic Ocean lying to the west of the British Isles and it meant Liverpool became an important and strategic city in the Second World War, aiding the Allied victory. It’s open for visitors to explore the labyrinth of rooms and offices.

For more info click here.

Maritime Museum in the Royal Albert Dock

Battle of the Atlantic
Battle of the Atlantic

Liverpool Maritime Museum will also be open with Battle of the Atlantic displays and free family activities.

Cammell Laird Shipyard

In Birkenhead, Cammell Laird shipyard will run a series of BoA80-themed tours around its yard to celebrate the efforts of shipbuilders in WW2, and to show how things have moved on. Visitors will also be given an exclusive behind-the-scenes commentary on board vintage buses supplied by Wirral Transport Museum.

Service of Thanksgiving

On Sunday, May 28, there will be a Drumhead service of thanksgiving at midday at Pier Head followed at 1.30pm by a March for the Medals from Exchange Flags to Princes Parade, where a group of Battle of the Atlantic veterans, now all in their mid to late-90s, will take the salute from the marching troops. 

Those who have family medals related to the Battle of the Atlantic campaign, or any other related Second World War campaign, have been invited to wear them in honour of their loved ones as they watch the local, national, and international contingents march in their memory. 

Flypasts and air displays

Both the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and vintage Fleet Air Arm Swordfish and Seafire aircraft will stage flypasts on all three days of the event, weather permitting.

Friday 

12.11pm: Flypast (North to South) Swordfish, BBMF, Poseidon

7pm: Swordfish display

Saturday 

11am:  Seafire and Swordfish formation display

11.50am: BBMF – Lancaster, Hurricane, Spitfire fly flypast (3 passes)

13.15pm: Lancaster, Hurricane, Spitfire – flypast (3 passes)

3pm: Seafire and Swordfish formation display

Sunday

12.30pm: Lancaster, Hurricane, Spitfire – flypast (3 passes)

1.50pm: Swordfish display

5.20pm: Swordfish display

His Majesty’s Royal MarinesBand in Concert – Saturday, May 27

On Saturday night, His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band are set to raise the roof with a special commemorative concert at the Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall in Hope Street, and they will remember and commemorate the sacrifice made by not only sailors, airmen, and dock workers, but civilians too. 

For more info click here.

LJMU Student show

A Battle of the Atlantic themed variety show written and performed by students of Liverpool John Moores University will be performed at the John Foster Drama Studio from Wednesday, May 24 to Friday, May 26. Tickets for ‘Blowing a Raspberry at Hitler’ are free and can be reserved via Eventbrite.

For more info click here.

Fantastic finale

The 80th Battle of the Atlantic Commemorations will conclude with the visiting vessels sailing down the Mersey at 5pm, escorted by a convoy from the Mersey’s maritime community and a Beat Retreat played by His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band at Pier Head.

For more info click here.

For more on the Battle of the Atlantic click here.

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