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Posted on Jul 16, 2005 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

International Festival of the Sea 2005

Armchair General



This year’s International Festival of the Sea (IFOS) coincided with the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (aka T200). Held at the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth Dockyard facilities, the Festival featured warships from all over the world, all of which had participated in the International Fleet Review in the Solent just days previously. Readers of my previous ACG article on the Historic Dockyard areas will recall my reports on HMS Victory, the Mary Rose and HMS Warrior, as well as the diverse variety of other attractions at the dockyard. Read on to see what the IFOS added to this already rich tapestry of tradition and history.


Let’s start with the obligatory picture of some tall bloke with a copy of ACG. That’ll be me then.


You’ll find the following link of interest:

Festival of the Sea

This report covers the following areas:

1) General festivities.

2) Tall ships.

3) The International Fleet.

4) HMS Illustrious.

5) HMS Tyne.

6) HMS Nottingham.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images.


The Festival took place in the Royal Naval dockyard facilities in Portsmouth. But rather than restrict the show to the Historic Dockyard portion of the Naval base (normally the only area open to the general public), the entire establishment was opened up for viewing. And it’s only now that I realise just how big the base is. Amidst many hundreds of buildings, office complexes, barracks, storehouses and fabrication yards, several massive basin/dry-dock facilities are centred around an enormous artificial "lagoon". As I headed deeper and deeper into the base to inspect the ships on display, I was fortunately able to keep my bearings by looking back at the the newly constructed Spinnaker Tower, the pride of Portsmouth’s Millennium facelift, which looked over the proceedings from the waterfront. In addition to the Tower, HMS Victory herself was bedecked with flags and bunting, the centrepiece of the entire show, her flags visible for some distance.

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This is the view I had from Portsmouth-Gosport Ferry as I headed across the harbour to the event. Knowing the event would cause traffic chaos in Portsmouth itself, I left my car in Gosport and took the ferry across the harbour mouth. Turns out this was a good move on my part – as you’ll see from the second picture, thousands of people were waiting to get in. This was only at one entrance to the base, and just the first wave – on the first day!

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Private yachts nestled deep within the Naval base – in spaces normally reserved for warships of Her Majesty’s Navy. I also found a Tornado aircraft nestling on one of the piers.

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Signs such at this one pointing the way to the nearest nuclear shelter were all over the base – a reminder that this is a working facility, the home of the Royal Navy. But despite this, even the grand buildings of the base Commanders didn’t escape the festivities.

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Uniformed and costumed individuals representing characters from the history of the Royal Navy mingled with the crowd. And a launch crewed by men in period costume even navigated itself around the basins and the harbour, although I think they’d probably have gone a bit faster with all of their oars in the water (!).

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Here’s "Admiral Nelson" being escorted through the proceedings. Local historian Alex Naylor played the part of Lord Nelson during the Trafalgar 200 celebrations and became something of a local celebrity during the weeks around T200.


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1 Comment

  1. The uniforms were all made by Keith Levett, livery tailor of Savile Row, who is standing the other side of Captain Hardy, and portraying Captain Thomas Troubridge, and beyond he, and also in your second photo, Captain James de Saumarez!
    Wonderful to see those photos.
    Yours aye,
    Alex Naylor (aka Nelson!) Keith also made the Full Dress uniform which is now on board HMS Victory and also the undress one in the Nelson Museum in Monmouth. They are precise replicas of the originals.