British naval vessels are sailing to Australia in the first large-scale overseas visit in decades to recover lost colonies and to recover “the cultural heritage of our country,” a British Ministry of Defense official said.
The HMS Beagle and HMS St. Mary will spend the next three days at sea, with a total of more than 3,000 sailors, and will spend a total time of about 10 days in the Australian archipelago, the official said Tuesday.
The visit by the ships and the two other warships, HMS St Mary and HMS Beagles, comes as Australia’s parliament prepares to vote on a bill that would extend the Australian flag from the country’s capital Sydney to the islands of Beotham, Melton, and Mascot Bay.
The Australian flag was removed from the flagpole at Sydney’s Kings Cross station last month, sparking criticism from some in the city and among international rights groups that Australia has failed to respect the colonial legacy of the nation.
The British Ministry, in a statement, said the Beagle, HMS Beath, and St Mary would participate in the Royal New Zealand Navy’s ongoing “coastal survey” of the Pacific Ocean.
“We are pleased to see that we have returned to the seas and are taking part in a major maritime survey, which is essential to ensure that our nation remains at the forefront of world history,” the ministry said.
The HMS St Elizabeth, a naval transport ship, also visited the Australian coast in October.
Earlier this month, the British government announced that it would begin the process of restoring the lost colonies, a process that has been underway for the past two years.
The Ministry said that the ships will “recover lost and stolen cultural heritage, and to restore to the Australian people the historic value of our own history and culture.”
“We hope to return to Australia and restore the lost islands to the people of Australia,” it said.