Wednesday, 8th March
Liverpool starts 80-day countdown to Battle of the Atlantic commemorative weekend
Weekend of international commemorations will take place from 26-28 May 2023
Veterans who served during the most decisive and long fought battle of the Second World War – the Battle of the Atlantic – were the guests of honour at an event in Liverpool to launch an 80-day countdown for the 80th Battle of the Atlantic commemorations.
Denis Rose, 98, from West Kirby, and John Dennett, 98, from Wallasey, were welcomed into the Ops Room at the Western Approaches Museum in Liverpool, which was once home to the Western Approaches Command and the centre of joint RAF and Navy operations to protect Allied merchant shipping in the Atlantic.
Denis volunteered with the RNVR and served on Atlantic and Arctic Convoys. He joined up at 17 and is now aged 98. John Dennett BEM is originally from Wiltshire but has lived in Wallasey since the end of the war. He joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman aged 17 and served as an anti-aircraft gunner. He is also 98.
The veterans were joined by guests from the Royal and Merchant Navies, the Canadian Navy, the Royal Air Force, Lord Mayor Roy Gladden, Liverpool Pilots, senior cadets from Sefton Sea Cadets, and trustees of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Charity. The guests assembled for a welcome speech from Gary Doyle, chair of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial charity, and watched a specially commissioned film about the Atlantic Campaign. A Corps of Drums from HM Royal Marines closed the event with a performance in Exchange Flags, above the Western Approaches Museum.
The launch marked the start of an 80-day countdown to a three-day commemoration which will take place in Liverpool across the bank holiday weekend from 26 – 28 May 2023. The international event, which is being led by the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Charity, will bring together partners from across the city region and beyond, including armed forces friends and allies from the Commonwealth, Europe, and the USA.
In a key part of the commemoration weekend, the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial charity will unveil a new national memorial to those who were lost. The new garden of reflection will be unveiled on Friday 26th May at the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas at the Pier Head.
Chairman of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Charity, Gary Doyle, said:
“Having veterans Denis and John join us as our guests of honour at today’s events, and speaking to them about their experiences, was a poignant reminder of the important contribution that their generation of seafarers from many nationalities, the port workers, and people of the port cities like Liverpool, made to eventual victory in the Second World War.
“Without success in the Atlantic other campaigns would not have been possible, including the D-Day landings. It is significant that in this 80th commemoration year we will finally have an overall memorial to remember this pivotal battle that our nation’s and many other nations’ survival depended on.”
Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Roy Gladden, said: “The Battle of the Atlantic was, according to Winston Churchill, one of the most important battles that took place, and if we’d lost that we would probably have lost the war.
“Tens of thousands of Merchant Seamen died to keep the supply lanes open and without them our nation would have starved.
“It is therefore vital that we remember the important role our city played, and I am very much looking forward to the series of events the city is putting on to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.”
The weekend of commemorative events from 26th – 28th May will include:
- A riverside 1940s-themed military village at the Pier Head
- Visiting vessels open to visitors in the Mersey
- Pop up music and dance performances
- Special family events at Western Approaches Museum
- Fly pasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and vintage Fleet Air Arm aircraft
- A concert by HM Royal Marines Band at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall
- A drumhead ceremony at the Pier Head
- A March of the Medals
The commemorations will conclude at precisely 19.43 hours on Sunday May 28th, with the attending merchant ships and Navy warships leading a convoy down the Mersey, while Beating Retreats are performed on both shores of the river.
Other BoA80 events will see performances by the Band of HM Royal Marines Scotland and Danish and German military bands, a Battle of the Atlantic themed variety show written and performed by students of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), ‘Blowing a Raspberry at Hitler’, and a one-day academic conference at the Maritime Museum, led by the school of History at LJMU.
Across the water in Birkenhead, Cammell Laird plans to open their yard to celebrate the efforts of shipbuilders in WW2 – and show how things have moved on.
The 80-day countdown event also launches a series of free-to-attend lectures which will allow members of the public to explore the history and legacy of the Battle of the Atlantic. The first lecture in this series – The Naval Review, by Sir Clive Johnstone – explores the impact of geopolitics on maritime trade. It will take place at St Nick’s Church on Wednesday 8th March, from 1730. Attendance is free, but guests must register in advance.
The partners involved in delivering events for Battle of the Atlantic Commemorative weekend include the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Charity, the Merchant and Royal Navies, the Royal Air Force, Western Approaches Museum, National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool City Council, and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. You can find more information about all the Battle of the Atlantic 80th commemoration events at battleoftheatlantic.org/boam-events/