August 2, 2019 – Royal Navy frigate, HMS Westminster will sail into London next week for a brief visit to her affiliated city on her way home to reunite with families at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth.
The Type 23 Duke-Class anti-submarine ship is returning from the NATO training exercise, Exercise Baltic Protector, in the Baltic region. Comprising the combined efforts of seven nations including Poland, Turkey, Spain, Denmark and Germany, HMS Westminster was part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) task force led by the US Navy under Rear Admiral Edward Cashman.
While returning from the Baltic, HMS Westminster also took part in NATO anti-submarine exercise Dynamic Mongoose in the North Atlantic near Norway.
Throughout the deployment, there were ample opportunities for Westminster’s sailors to bond with their NATO colleagues, with the ships conducting regular exchanges of sailors to experience life in our allies’ ships. Westminster’s sailors visited the Polish ship Generał Kazimierz Pułaski, German Auxiliary ship Rhon and the USS Gravely, spending the day with their NATO counterparts.
Commenting on the training within NATO, Westminster’s Executive Warrant Officer (EWO), Warrant Officer Leona Young said: “For many of the junior members of the ship’s company this was their first ever deployment. What a great experience to be part of NATO and feel part of a multinational task group. The friendships made and challenges that have been collectively overcome will make a lasting impression throughout their careers.”
Whilst in London on Wednesday 7 August, the crew will exercise their ‘Freedom of the City’ of Westminster. This is the highest honor any city can bestow upon a military unit and gives them the right to march through the city with drums beating, colors (flags) flying and bayonets fixed (fitted to rifles).
Historically, in a time when even the King’s troops were often forbidden to pass a city’s gates, giving a military unit the freedom of a city showed that the civil populace placed a great deal of trust in them, even allowing them to form up with weapons within their city walls.
The ‘Freedom of the City’ was first conferred upon HMS Westminster on 11th December 2005 and was last exercised in September 2014.