The Revd Michael Meachin is Chaplain on HMS Defender, but when on land resides in Southern Synod and is on our Synod Roll. Earlier in the month HMS Defender represented the UK at the International Fleet Review hosted by India (2-4 February 2016), and Michael has sent the following ‘dispatch’. (HMS Defender is on a six month deployment as part of the international operation in the Persian Gulf.)
The International Fleet Review was quite an event. The little town of Visakhapatnam (size of Falmouth) which is the Indian Eastern Fleet Command hosted 54 Nations and over 100 ships.
It was over an hour by boat to get in from the anchorage but was worth it. Many people had never seen India and all were struck by the welcome from everyone- tuck tuck rides with children running and shouting and for many the first real poverty they have seen. All our sailors were generous and over tipped and over paid, and on the last day – just gave their rupees to the children on the street.
Each day there was a different event. brilliant. Just written this for the Navy News piece the ship is sending in:
The International Fleet Review Closing Ceremony
The International Fleet Review Closing Ceremony was a spectacular not to be missed! Lion headed dancers from Indonesia, acrobatic drummers from Sri Lanka, haunting jazz from the USA and the Corps of Drums from the Indian Navy which would give the Royal Marines a run for their money were just a few of the amazing performances. Naval Bands of some of the participating nations entertained us, each band played music representing not only their own culture but their ties to the oceans that both bind and separate, but for all are important. The finale brought a joining together of each as one combined band the significance being that although language and politics may separate nations, the sea and music can be mediums to break down those barriers.
However, what made this event particularly special for me as a chaplain were the closing remarks of Rear Admiral SV Bhokare, YSM, NM Commander of the Indian Navy Eastern Fleet. Amongst the usual and expected thanks to all who made the event possible, his poignant closing thanks were to each and every one of the 54 nations present who took the risk of meeting together in peace and friendship and what a great hope for the future that is. This is perhaps surreally illustrated by the fact I was sitting at a table with officers and sailors from the China and Iran sharing food and drink, applauding the performances and at the end all trying to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’! I felt truly privileged to have been part of such a meeting of nations.
Were now well and truly on the way home, just off bottom of Sri Lanka and start heading north to the Bahrain tomorrow.
The next few days has us back in the Operational Area so we are starting to ramp up the readiness and training again – it’s a very fluid political situation at the moment, but we are all looking forward to the stand down .
Pancakes went down a treat and had Ash Wed prayers last night
Revd Mike Meachin BTh RN
Chaplain HMS DEFENDER