Flotilla of warships sails into Portsmouth

Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

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PORTSMOUTH today greeted a flotilla of warships from around Europe.

The minehunters plus a German support ship sailed in line into the harbour at the start of a six-day visit.

In a sombre show of respect, all flew flags at half mast in the wake of the Brussels bombings.

The German replenishment vessel FGS Donua (pictured) was followed in by HMS Ramsey (UK), HNOMS Otra (Norway), BNS Primula (Belgium), FGS Dillingen (Germany). HNLMS Vlaardingen (the Netherlands), which had also been due in today, is now not expected until Friday.

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Commander David Hilton, base services manager at Portsmouth Naval Base, said all the crews were excited to visit the city.

‘We often get individual ships from foreign navies visit Portsmouth, but it is not so common to get a group of vessels like this,’ he added.

The fleet – and its 250 sailors – has been operating together since February as one of Nato’s two permanent mine countermeasures groups.

It has been patrolling the waters of northern Europe carrying out minehunting exercises and dealing with unexploded ordnance from last century’s conflicts.

The ships will begin to leave the city at 9am on Tuesday next week.