Royal Navy and Chilean Navy unite to honour shared naval legend who help shape the military forces
MILITARY top brass from two countries have unveiled a permanent tribute to a shared naval hero during a ceremony in Portsmouth.
Heads of both the Royal Navy and the Chilean Navy gathered in Portsmouth Naval Base to honour Admiral Thomas Cochrane.
The famed British sailor helped lead Chile to victory in its war of independence against the Spanish 200 years ago.
His exploits went down in history and helped to cement and enduring legacy between both Chile and Britain.
And to honour Admiral Cochrane’s legendary status in both navies, the Senior Service has named a building in his honour.
The former Lancelot site – which is the headquarters of the Portsmouth flotilla command team – has now been renamed as the Admiral Thomas Cochrane building.
Britain’s top sailor, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones joined with the head of Chile’s navy, Admiral Julio Leiva, in unveiling the new plaque.
And sitting in the crowd was the great-great-great grandson of Admiral Cochrane, Michael Cochrane.
Mr Cochrane – himself a retired Commodore in the Royal Navy – said he was ‘lost for words’ at the symbolic gesture.
He said: ‘I spent 38 years in the Royal Navy, so I’m unbelievably thrilled. It’s particularly special because I was a flotilla commander here in Portsmouth and this was my headquarters building
‘So the fact that it’s now named after my great-great-great grandfather is an immense personal thrill.’
The ceremony took place in front of leading sailors from both navies as well as number of international diplomats and city officials.
Both Adm Jones and Adm Leiva sailed into the dockyard on the Archer-class patrol boat Smiter to the rousing tunes of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band from HMS Collingwood.
Adm Leiva said the bond of friendship that runs between the two nations runs deeply; the former HMS Norfolk now serves in the Chilean Navy as the Admiral Cochrane.
Speaking of the importance of Admiral Cochrane to his nation, Adm Leiva said: ‘He was the founder and cornerstone of our navy. He is a source of inspiration even now to our sailors and commanding officers.
‘His bravery and his inspiration, determination and will has been extremely important in our history.
‘He was one of the most important sailors that we ever had in our navy.’
Thomas Cochrane joined the navy at 17 in 1793 during the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, in France.
He quickly rose up the ranks, gaining a reputation as a savvy, daring leader, capable of outwitting opponents on the sea.
Mr Cochrane said: ‘He could make his ship dance on the head of a pin. He could sail it closer to the wind, faster than anyone else and he would go at the enemy. He was absolutely brilliant at it.
‘He captured his first French vessel before lunch on his first day in command of his first ship.’
However, the naval leader fell into disgrace after he was convicted of being a conspirator to the Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814.
He left England to head to Chile where he helped found the country’s navy and lead it to independence.
The First Sea Lord described the legendary officer as a ‘colourful character’ and added: ‘A day like today is hugely important because it cements a link between our two navies which goes back 200 years.
‘We share a great leader who shaped the development of both our navies in Admiral Thomas Cochrane but also a very significant present as well – we both operate Type 23 frigates, we train alongside each other, they are our closest partner operating in the south Atlantic region, and we’re looking to shape our future together as well.’