Visitors flock to visit warships in Cardiff

Visitors flocked to a flotilla of NATO warships when Cardiff hosted a Meet the Forces day – although those stepping aboard HMS Duncan were confronted by one of the most dangerous aliens in the universe.

Six ships – including the Royal Navy’s latest front-line Type 45 destroyer – were berthed in Cardiff Bay at the heart of a ‘military village’ in Britannia Park, which also featured equipment, displays and personnel from the Army and RAF.

And on a hot, sunny Sunday the people of South Wales turned up in their thousands to see what today’s Armed Forces have to offer – one estimate put the total number of visitors throughout the day at more than 80,000.

The ships had travelled to South Wales in support of the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in nearby Newport, during which Duncan hosted a formal dinner on board for 28 NATO defence ministers. 

Duncan saw more than 4,000 members of the public cross her gangway.

She and the other five warships – La Motte-Picquet (France), Skudd (Norway), Kursis (Lithuania), Urk (Netherlands) and Viesturs (Latvia) – were joined in Roath Basin by two Archer-class patrol boats, HM Ships Biter and Express, in welcoming visitors on board.

Duncan saw more than 4,000 members of the public cross her gangway, while the two patrol boats – each with a ship’s company of just five – had attracted more than 200 people by early afternoon.

Those stepping onto the destroyer’s flight deck in the morning were greeted by a dalek borrowed from the nearby BBC film studios – although this particular dalek sported an HMS Duncan cap and crest and was operated by a midshipman from Birmingham URNU, Michael Hooper.

The event – formally opened by the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones on board HNoMS Skudd – was a joint effort between the local authorities and the military, with the Naval Regional Commander for Wales and Western England, Cdre Jamie Miller, and his team putting in months of planning to ensure the event ran as smoothly as possible.

Many elements of the Naval Service and wider Naval family were represented – members of the Royal Marines Band CTCRM played in small ensembles on the flight deck of Duncan and ashore, RN, RM and Maritime Reserves recruiters were evident and Cardiff branch of the RNA also manned a stall.

Cdre Miller, who was Joint Military Commander of the Meet the Forces Day, said: “I’m hugely pleased – it has exceeded expectations.”

And the Commanding Officer of HMS Duncan, Cdr Rich Atkinson, spoke of his pride at how his ship’s company had risen to the challenges of the “hectic visit”, from formal events and VIP visits during the summit to explaining their roles and those of their ship and the Royal Navy to the public as they filed through the destroyer or waited, sometimes for hours, in the queue on the jetty.

Duncan is due to squeeze through the narrow lock and out into the open sea later this afternoon, with one of the Archer-class boats in attendance