Not quiet on the Sefton front as HMS Mersey parades through Liverpool’s streets

The wet streets of Sefton resounded to the crunch of steaming bats and ‘HMS Mersey, eyes right…’ as the ship’s company marched through the Liverpool borough for the first time.

The Portsmouth-based warship cemented a 20-year friendship with the people of Sefton by accepting the Freedom of the Borough as they visited Merseyside for the first time since lockdown.
Fresh from a six-week stint in the Baltic working with regional navies to assist and support security and build up the UK’s ability to operate seamlessly with our allies and partners, including the Estonian Navy, the River-class vessel berthed at Liverpool’s Cruise Liner jetty for their five-day stay.
Sailors were invited to join Sefton councillors for a formal ceremony in Bootle Town Hall on Thursday April 13, when the Freedom Scroll – which allows HMS Mersey’s sailors to march through the streets of the borough with bayonets fixed, Colours flying and led by a military band – was presented.
And three days later they were back, marching in a circle (well square route) around the heart of the borough – including past the wartime home of legendary U-boat killer Captain ‘Johnnie’ Walker in Stanley Road.
It was in part due to Walker’s exploits and links with the district – his ships operated from Gladstone Docks and the town hall possesses memorabilia connected with Walker and his men – that civic leaders decided to bestow their highest honour on the 21st-Century patrol ship.
Afterwards, the marchers were invited to relax in Bootle’s oldest hostelry (the Jawbone Tavern, dating back to three years before Trafalgar…).
“Our Borough – and Bootle in particular – is synonymous with the heroism and dedication of our Royal Navy,” said Mayor of Sefton Clare Carragher.
“It is poignant that just a few hundred yards from our council chamber still stands the former house of Captain Walker and battle worn ensigns from dozens of naval ships hang proudly within Bootle Town Hall.

“I am humbled by the sacrifice of those who have gone before us and those who serve today across our armed forces. To be the mayor who bestows the Freedom of the Borough upon HMS Mersey is an honour.”
The RN set up a ‘village’ on the jetty for cadets, University Royal Navy Units, reservists from Liverpool’s HMS Eaglet and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) advocates to champion all aspects of naval life and the RN family.
The ship threw open her gangway for interested Liverpudlians to take a look around, with all 600 tickets snapped up and a constant flow of visitors through the passageways for six hours.
“I am delighted that HMS Mersey has been able to spend time ‘at home’ – the first time we’ve been able to do so in more than three years,” said Lieutenant Commander James ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, the ship’s Commanding Officer.
“Receiving the Freedom of the Borough made our return especially memorable. Everyone is looking forward to seeing the people of Sefton – and Liverpool.”

I am delighted that HMS Mersey has been able to spend time ‘at home’ – the first time we’ve been able to do so in more than three years

Lieutenant Commander James ‘Mitch’ Mitchell