Liverpool will be kept in the mind of the crew members of the 45th midshipman training voyage of the frigate Libertad as an unforgettable life-experience. Like those you tell to your grandchildren. The first hint was on their arrival last Saturday: 351 shipmen entered the port standing on the masts and the band paying tribute to The Beatles. On Sunday, up to 1500 visitors witnessed first-hand, after 24 years, the majestic beauty of the vessel that holds the record of the North Atlantic crossing. It mattered to the Argentine community in the UK, unable to see it for 14 years, proud of the friendly message our `Ambassador of the seas´ carries to the world on its Bicentennial Journey. On Monday, Argentine representatives together with members of the local Welsh Society laid a wreath at the Mimosa Memorial that commemorates the first Welsh settlers who set sail for Patagonia in 1865. Cadets of the frigate toured their peers of the Liverpool University Royal Navy Unit around the vessel and exchanged anecdotes about their backgrounds and training experiences. Half-way of the itinerary, this Tuesday the ship set sail to Dublin, next stop on its 196-day voyage arriving in Argentina in November.
“It is a privilege to have the `Fragata´, the best Ambassador, much better than myself.— joked the new Argentine Ambassador to the United Kingdom, R. Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, and added— It is historical for us argentines, after so many years without having the visit of the Libertad in the UK”. The diplomat welcomed the Ministry of Defence and thanked its authorities for the support and arrangements that made possible the arrival of the vessel, and the presence of Mr Jim Davies the High Sheriff of Merseyside.
On his turn, Chief Commander Ignacio Errecaborde said “our societies, the British and the Argentine, are very close. Closer than many people would think”. “Those shared values, are common values are like lines for language for people to communicate and connect”, added the father of the crew, and proposed a toast to those links, to those common values, that coming from the past should lead us to the future. Salud”.
Farewell depicted the 4 day nurturing experience behind the visit of the Libertad to the UK.
On Saturday evening the Libertad made its entrance to the Liverpool Dock singing “Yellow Submarine”, “All you need is love” and “I want to hold your hand”, among others. The crew paid a colourful tribute to the Beatles, singing from the flag-decorated masts.
“We are really pleased of being back here to the United Kingdom after so long”, said then Chief Commander Errecaborde, who manifested the value of this experience for the new generations of cadets on board. “It has been 14 years since the last visit to this country, and arriving at this port, in such a musical city with such a young population, fills us. We have new challenges and we love building bridges”, he added.
On Monday, standing only a few hundred yards away from Cammell Laird & Co. shipyard in Birkenhead, where Presidente Sarmiento ship—predecessor to ´Libertad´— was built in 1897, Ambassador Sersale stated that our countries have “a long relationship” and “strong links”. “A part of my job is to put relations between the two countries, in this case, between the two navies, at the level they should be, at the potential they should be”, he said to the local press.
It was after gathering with members of the Welsh Society in Liverpool, local authorities and Chief Commander Errecaborde to lay a wreath at the Mimosa Memorial on Princes Parade—unveiled in 2015 to mark 150 years since the first Welsh settlers set sail from Liverpool to Patagonia.
Welsh are a “distinctive” example, said the diplomat- on keeping their traditions “even though they are Argentinian”. Sersale also highlighted the strength of our shared cultural bonds with the Welsh community. Errecaborde added: “A few hours ago, few meters away from here His Excellency and me paid homage to a group of British that in the past had decided to move away and start a new life at the world´s end in north Patagonia. If you visit the province of Chubut, you will see there the red dragon flag side by side with the sky blue and white flag of Argentina. Those Argentinian have kept the cultural values and traditions that their great grand parents have brought to my country.”
In the afternoon, a group of students from Liverpool University Royal Navy Unit visited the Libertad and met with the Argentine cadets. They were toured around the vessel and exchanged anecdotes about their backgrounds, training experiences and life in the Navy.
The 104m-long frigate, which has visited ten different countries on its latest voyage, will set sail for Dublin on Tuesday ahead of visits to Spain, Italy, Greece, Brazil and Uruguay. Libertad has spent 17 of her 53 years at sea, covering over 800,000 nautical miles and visiting over 500 ports in 60 countries. Around 11,000 Argentine seamen have been trained aboard, and Libertad holds the world speed record for crossing the North Atlantic – covering 2,058 miles from Cape Race (Canada) to the line between Dublin/Liverpool, in just eight days and 12 hours