July 8, 2005 — The HMS Liverpool, a Royal Navy destroyer, sailed into Crown Bay Marina at around 8:30 Friday morning for the Royal Navy's first visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands in three years. With no cruise ships visiting St. Thomas that day, the 230 sailors found themselves the honored guests of the islands.
Proper protocol when they arrived included a briefing from the V.I. Police Department, the Department of Tourism and other government agencies.
"We told them about places to visit," said Monique Sibilly Hodge, the assistant commissioner of tourism. "They were wondering if the beaches were flat because they wanted to play Frisbee."
"They were also very interested in local food," continued Sibilly Hodge, who told the sailors they would be welcome anywhere. "We told them to make sure they get conch, fungi and fish."
The sailors also paid a visit to Government House for a presentation of colors to government officials. The formalities were followed by a cocktail reception onboard the ship Friday evening.
The trip was organized by John Foster, honorary Royal Naval liaison officer. "When I first came here in 1961, I was in the Royal Navy myself," Foster said. "When I got here I checked in with the British Consul."
Soon he found himself helping out when a Royal Navy ship came to port, organizing cricket and football games, and other land and sea activities for the soldiers. That consul retired in the mid '60s, and Foster has been welcoming the Royal Navy ever since.
"It's really nice to have the Royal Navy in here," said Foster. "They feel this will be an exceptionally exciting trip."
At 6 p.m. Sunday, there will be a soccer game under the lights at Lionel Roberts Stadium. Other activities planned include rugby, volleyball, darts, sailing and plenty of beach time. Other stops have included playing field hockey in Puerto Rico, cricket on St. Vincent, helping with reconstruction in Grenada, and now some soccer — or as the British say, football — on St. Thomas.
While it may sound like the crew are leading a charmed life, the ship and its crew have also been vital in carrying out anti-drug operations in the Caribbean. Earlier this year the destroyer embarked on a six-month deployment, cutting across the Atlantic and into the clear blue waters of the Caribbean.
On Monday, members of the Royal Navy will go to the Boys and Girls Club to spruce it up with a fresh coat of paint. The ship will depart on Tuesday.
For more information about the HMS Liverpool, visit its web site.
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