HMS Somerset joins Hamburg’s biggest party

If you’re a member of HMS Somerset’s ship’s company, your hands should be in the air after representing the RN at one of the world’s premier maritime events.

The Plymouth-based frigate sailed up the Elbe to Hamburg to celebrate its Hafengeburtstag – harbour birthday – marking the date back in the late 12th Century when Emperor Frederick Barbarossa lifted custom duties, allowing free trade to flourish and Hamburg to boom.

Eight centuries (and a bit) later and the anniversary is an excuse for a weekend-long seafaring party attracting ships and craft from all over the world.

The RN’s No.1 Frigate (she holds the Fleet efficiency award) spent ten hours sailing up river to her plum berth at the Überseebrücke – where people once left the Old World for the New – outboard of German sub-hunter FGS Augsburg and in the shadow of the magnificent new Elbe Philharmonic Hall.

The strains of God Save the Queen drifted across the Elbe as Somerset arrived to witness a parade of hundreds of craft from tall ships to pleasure boats jostled for position on the river.

Throughout the festival, Somerset’s gangway was opened to the public with 13,000 Hamburgers taking advantage – not least because her forecastle provided the best viewing platform of any participant in the event to observe goings-on on the water.

A good few of them left with HMS Somerset T-Shirts and baseball caps as the frigate’s shop did a lively trade, boosting the coffers of the ship’s welfare fund by well over £1,000.

Besides the general public, there was a joint cocktail party hosted by Somerset and Augsburg for local, national and international dignitaries. And a number of German liaison officers had the best seats in the house for the firework celebration on the Saturday night, as Somerset towered over the civilian boats in the river.

Festival over, the attention of German seafarers has switched to Kiel Week (beginning June 18), while Somerset has returned to UK waters for intensive flying training with the Wildcats of 825 Naval Air Squadron.