The first British warship to visit Cuba since before the 1959
revolution sailed into Havana Bay on Monday, where it was
greeted by a Cuban Navy band playing "God Save the Queen."
HMS Manchester enters Havana's bay beside the colonial-era Morro Cabana fortressPhoto: REUTERS
7:55PM GMT 15 Nov 2010
With its colours flying and bright red Sea Dart missiles poised on deck, the destroyer HMS Manchester pulled into port opposite Old Havana, the historic centre of the Cuban capital, at the start of a five-day visit to the Communist-led island.
The ship's officers were to meet with their Cuban counterparts to discuss collaboration on counter-drug and disaster relief operations in the Caribbean region.
The last time a British warship stopped at the island was in 1957 when the frigate HMS Bigbury Bay visited Havana.
At the time, a rebel insurgency led by Fidel Castro was under way and on Jan. 1, 1959, it toppled the government of dictator Fulgencio Batista and took power.
At the height of the Cold War, Mr Castro transformed the island into a Communist state and took on the Soviet Union as Cuba's top ally, which cooled relations with the West.
On Monday, the Cuban Navy greeted the ship with an honour guard carrying both Cuban and British flags, and with the band that played both national anthems.
The Manchester's visit, said Commander Rex Cox, may signal greater collaboration is at hand.
"The Royal Navy hasn't been here for 53 years, but we very much hope this is the start of many more warships coming back," he told reporters aboard the 462-foot-long, metallic grey ship.
Meeting with the Cuban Navy and government officials will give the Royal Navy "a better understanding of how counter-narcotics operations are run in the northern and western Caribbean," Commander Cox said.
"We can start to talk about how we do things and actually learn how they do things," he said.