HUNDREDS of German sailors are in Portsmouth soaking up the sights and the beer this weekend.
Three warships arrived today, bringing 700 sailors into the city until Monday.
The Royal Navy raised the German flag at Semaphore Tower to signal the arrival of a new German frigate, FGS Hessen, at Portsmouth Naval Base at 9am.
The large tanker ship FGS Frankfurt Am Main sailed in at noon, followed by another frigate, FGS Emden, an hour later.
It is the first foreign visit for the task group which left Wilhelmshaven base last month for a seven-month deployment to train with the Royal Navy and other allies in Western Europe, the US and Canada.
For one young sailor, it is a homecoming of sorts.
Signalman Alexander Gauger, 20, of Wilhelmshaven, said: ‘I used to live here. My dad was a naval officer and he moved the family to Portsmouth for one year while he was posted here. I was about two or three at the time so obviously I don’t recognise anything but I’m looking forward to having a look around.’
Seaman Mirco Müller, 21, of Wiesbaden, said: ‘It’s my first visit to Portsmouth and it looks like a nice place. I want to see the city and visit some friends who are in Portsmouth studying at the university.’
Many of the sailors are booked to go on tours of HMS Victory in what the task group commander, Captain Christoph Müller-Meinhard, hopes will be an inspiring visit for his men and women.
He said: ‘Portsmouth is our first foreign harbour and it’s an important one for us because it’s a very rich naval town with a lot of history.
‘The sailors are looking forward to a good run ashore. We’ve organised some tours of the museums here and on HMS Victory and some of them will be taking the opportunity to go to London as well.’
Commander Thorsten Marx, who is the captain of FGS Hessen, was thrilled with the welcoming flag from the Royal Navy.
He said: ‘We appreciate their hospitality. Right from the beginning we have a good feeling and we are really looking forward to our stay here.
‘I’m personally interested in naval history so I will look for that. This city is full of history and that’s my thing.
‘I will also make use of the famous pubs and restaurants here.’
The ships will leave on Monday. FGS Hessen is due out at 8.45am, FGS Frankfurt Am Main at 9am and FGS Emden at noon.