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American Tall Ship USCGC Eagle in West India Dock

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In a crowded West India Dock we welcome another interesting arrival in the shape of an American tall ship with a intriguing past. The USCGC Eagle is a 295-foot (90 m) barque that is used as a training ship for   future officers of the United States Coast Guard. Like many other training ships for other navies, the Eagle is used for training cadets and performs a public relations role visiting ports around the world as a goodwill ambassador.


The Eagle has a standing permanent crew of seven officers and 50 enlisted members; on training missions, she takes on a variety of temporary crew and sails with an average complement of 12 officers, 68 crew, and up to 150 trainees.


The Eagle was built for the German Navy under its previous name of the Horst Wessel, it was launched in 1936 at the famous Blohm and Voss yard in Hamburg.


The Horst Wessel was considered a ship of the Gorch Fock class and has many similarities with the famous German Sailing ship. The Horst Wessel was named after a murdered Nazi activist and the launch was attended by Adolf Hitler and other Nazi dignitaries. From its launch it was used to train future officers of the German Navy until 1939 when the ship was decommissioned. In 1942, the ship was recommissioned and had a number of weapons installed throughout the decks. At the end of the war, four German sailing vessels were distributed to various nations as war reparations. The ship only ended up in the United States by the Americans winning a drawing of lots for the ship with the Russian and British navies.


In 1946, the ship was commissioned into the United States Coast Guard as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle. Since that date she has been used in training generations of potential officers and is known “America’s Tall Ship.” and is a familiar sight at various Tall Ship races and events. The ship is based at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut and in the ships time in the United States Navy has been visited by a number of Presidents including Kennedy, Nixon and Truman.


It is reported that the Eagle will be open for free public tours from Thursday, June 9 to Monday, June 13.

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Regular contributor Eric Pemberton managed to photograph the Eagle leaving the dock on the 14th June.

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HMS Ocean and the German Navy Ships – May 10th 2015


On the final day of 70th anniversary commemorations of the end of WW2 in Europe, a walk around the Isle of Dogs  offers considerable reminders into the human costs of the conflict and how far we have moved since the war to bring  former enemies together.

The Isle of Dogs and Docklands in general were prime targets in the war and suffered a considerable loss of life and injuries. The area also suffered from damage to housing and decimated the Island population with many people never returning to their homes.


Walking down to the south tip of the Island, the huge Royal Navy ship HMS Ocean was open for visitors in Greenwich and in the bright sunshine, large crowds were on deck.


Meanwhile in West India Dock, the visiting ships of the German Navy were attracting a number of people admiring the flotilla.


Looking at the ships, I wondered what people who had survived the war thought about the German Navy being in the dock, in 1945 the thought of a German navy coming up the Thames and into the dock would have been unimaginable.


But if time does not always heal wounds, the coming together of Europe has enabled various countries who were once enemies to work together for the common good.

Therefore it is important to celebrate the end of the WW2 and acknowledging the sacrifices of millions of people who enabled the following generations to enjoy the 70 years of peace since.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton who sent the following pictures of HMS Ocean and German Ships being turned around near the O2 last week and departing.

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German Navy Ships in West India Dock – May 9th 2015


The West India Docks have not had many visitors recently, however the arrival of a number of ships from the German Navy have quickly filled up the dock.


The ships FGS Hermelin, FGS Wiesel, FGS Werra, FGS Zobel, FGS Frettchen and FGS Hyane are in London this weekend to take part in VE Day celebrations.


A514 Werra was commissioned in the 1990s and is one of the  Type 404 Elbe class replenishment ships of the German Navy which were built to support its squadrons of Fast Attack Craft, submarines and minesweeper/hunters.
The ships carry fuel, fresh water, food, ammunition and other material, they also have a medical station aboard.


(P6123) Hermelin,(P6125)Zobel,(P6126)Frettchen,(P6129) Wiesel and (P6130) Hyäne are Type 143A Gepard class which is a class of missile bearing fast attack craft.



Aboard the German Navy Ships by L. Katiyo

Upper most deck on Mosel (Photo by L Katiyo)
In the last few posts we have reported on the German Navy ships berthed in West India Dock, today they had an Open Day when they allowed visitors on board. Unfortunately I was unable to take up this offer but L. Katiyo who has contributed to the site before, was available and the post  gives  her impressions of the Open Day.
After being fortunate enough to get a full tour of HMS Ocean in 2012 while it was on duty at Greenwich during the London Olympics, I was excited to learn the Germany Navy would open its ships to visitors.  I wanted to find out the differences and the similarities between our own Royal Navy and the German Navy, based on my little bit of knowledge.
Commanding Officer on the Mosel (Photo by L Katiyo)
Unfortunately, the tour was limited to on deck but one of the Commanding Officers on the Mosel was happy to give me a tour and answer all my questions, and even obliged a photo.  The Mosel is the supply ship for the minesweepers.  It carries fuel, food, ammunition and parts to repair machinery, as well as other required supplies.  He pointed out the drones (the small boats accompanying the ships) which are manned or can be deployed unmanned and then remotely controlled from the ships.  The Mosel can also be used as a rescue ship.  It has a landing pad for a helicopter and has been involved in rescue missions.
On board the Siegburg,(Photo by L Katiyo)
On board the Siegburg, I was given a tour by a junior officer.  It is a minesweeper and a much small ship in comparison to the Mosel.  It also has small, remote-controlled drones of about a meter in length which I was not allowed to see.  The drones are used to detonate any mines that are found and are themselves destroyed in the process.  The ship usually carries about 14 of them at any one time.  Listening to the explanations called to mind the computer game, Minesweeper.  A de-mining mission really is like the computer game, controlled from the ship’s computer using sonar to detect mines and then exploding them with drones when they are identified.  Not all mines are detonated that way.  Sometimes divers have to go in and attach explosives to the mines.  The minesweeping ships have decompression chambers for the divers to decompress after diving.  The period for decompression depends on the depth of the dive.
Drones (Photo by L Katiyo)
I wondered where are these mines that have to be detonated and require joint cooperation between the German, the British and the French navies.  It seems most of them are remnants from the WWII and situated in the Baltic Sea.  The maps detailing where the mines were thrown have been destroyed, so trying to find them is like fumbling in the dark.  Only 20% of the mines have been found and destroyed so far.  Missions on ships range from 3 weeks to 6 months.  Interestingly, like the British Royal Navy, the German Royal Navy has Chaplains on board, but only for long missions.  On the Mosel, the Chaplain holds a service on the uppermost deck.
smiley face on the Mosel (Photo by L Katiyo)
I was curious about the smiley face on the Mosel.  Apparently, the sign has the NATO logo at the back but the front was grey and dreary.  They decided to paint a smiley face on it to brighten up things.  For the other ships, the illustrations (which I think of some as some kind of mascot) are more meaningful.  Each ship is associated with a city and takes on a symbol associated with the city. This explains the Pied Paper illustrated on the ship Hamelin which we know from folklore as the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Pied Piper of Hamelin (Photo by L Katiyo)
The Siegburg has its own symbol associated with the city of Siegburg.  I had a wonderful afternoon and was delighted that two officers spared an hour of their time to talk to me.  Sadly, most of the crew have had very little time to discover our island as some have been on 24hr duty during their brief stopover.
(Photo by L Katiyo)

The German Navy at West India Dock Part Two – (M1093) Auerbach/Oberpfalz,(M1098) Siegburg and Seehund Drones


There was considerable surprise early on with the arrival of three ships of the German Navy , however that was not the end of the excitement with the arrival of two more minesweepers and a number ( I think four) Seehund  drones .


The two latest arrivals are (M1093) Auerbach/Oberpfalz and (M1098) Siegburg.


The minesweepers act as Mother ships for Seehund remotely controlled minesweeping drones as part of the TROIKA PLUS system which have two-man crews only for transit.


With this large number of ships in the dock and tugs as well , it bought out a crowd of people in the warm sunshine.


How long they will be here for is not known at the moment and the ships are probably on exercise.



The following information is from the German Embassy.

From Thursday 15 May to Sunday 18 May, five warships from the 5th Minesweeping Squadron will berth at West India Docks for their port visit to London. The Squadron is currently conducting a squadron exercise in the North Sea and the ships’ crews are looking forward to an interesting stay in this vibrant city.

The Squadron – led by Commander Guido Brach – will berth with three minesweepers, one supply ship, one tanker and four minesweeping drones at Canary Wharf. These minesweepers and the mine sweeping drones together form the TROIKA PLUS system. According to operational procedures, up to four unmanned drones with activated sweeping gear can be remote-controlled from the vessels.

The ships will be open to the public for an “open ship” on Saturday, 17 May from 1pm to 4pm.



The Gorch Fock in West India Dock – Part Two


Gorch Foch amongst the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf

A little bit like steam trains, a tall ship with sails and a network of rigging conjures up images of nostagia.

If you are British and of a certain age it is very difficult to see a sailing ship without the soundtrack of the Onedin Line playing around somewhere in your mind.


The Gorch Fock next to the old dock cranes with the O2 in the background.


Entering the Dock.


Hard astern


Two German ships Gorch Fock and MS Stubnitz