Signal sent to The Naval Service (afloat and ashore) from First Sea Lord earlier today

Exactly twenty-eight years ago, ships of the Royal Navy came together with other Navies at anchor in the Solent as a Fleet to honour Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee. Today, Her Majesty reviews an International Fleet that has gathered at the invitation of the Royal Navy to celebrate our national maritime heritage and to bring to the wider national and international audience greater understanding of the role of modern Naval forces.

167 ships of 36 nations are participating in today’s Review, an international gathering of vessels probably never seen before, with the aim also of demonstrating the unique and powerful bonds that exist between the seafaring nations of the world – the international spirit of the sea. That so many nations have accepted our invitation to attend is a reflection of the continuing admiration and respect felt towards the Royal Navy and the part our service has played in international affairs over many centuries.

I am conscious that the demands on our ships, submarines, air squadrons and Royal Marines are significant, and the fact that so many have been able to come together to underpin this historic event reflects the inherent flexibility of naval forces. Some of you have only recently returned from operational deployments, some are about to deploy, and others have managed to spare but a few days in your tasking to join this Fleet.While we are fortunate to be able to celebrate this occasion, other units of the Royal Navy continue with their vital work. Sailors and marines remain engaged in some of the most difficult conditions in Iraq and our ships continue to patrol the Northern Gulf to protect Iraq’s integrity as a nation. In the West Indies we continue the fight against the menace of the drugs trade while in the Mediterranean we remain engaged fully with other NATO nations in counter-terrorism patrols. Our Ballistic Missile Deterrent Force remains continuously at sea and the ships of the Atlantic Patrol Task provide an umbrella of security for our dependent territories, as well as being on constant readiness to provide humanitarian assistance. Other units are deployed further afield, in joint international exercises and in promoting the United Kingdom’s diplomatic interests in every corner of the Globe. In all our activities the Royal Navy would be at a loss without the vital support of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, celebrating its own centenary this year.

Only through the constant vigilance of our deployed units and their people are we able to manage the events of today in Portsmouth and the Solent, and I trust that wherever you and all who serve with you are, you may be able to share in the significance of this event through the medium of television.

The Royal Navy is often out of the public eye because of the very nature of our business at sea. Through this International Fleet Review I hope that the contribution that our service, both at sea and ashore, provides to our nation, will be better understood. We are a force for good that is as relevant today as in Nelson’s day; that has a justified reputation for excellence and whose people are as resilient to the demands placed upon them as our predecessors over many centuries during peace and conflict. I am proud to lead such a magnificent Navy and, on an occasion when we have the honour to welcome so many vessels and representatives of foreign navies to the United Kingdom, I wish to thank each and everyone of you, at sea and ashore, deployed or in home waters, for what will today become a memorable occasion in the history of our great maritime nation.