Romania doesn’t boast an outstanding maritime tradition, because the country got access to the sea through only in 1878, in the wake of the Russian-Turkish war. Located between the Danube and the Black Sea, Dobrudja had been annexed by the Ottoman Empire at the end of the rule of Mircea the Old (1386-1418). Until that time the Romanians had been limited only to river navigation. The Romanian naval school came into being at the end of the 19th century, upon a decision by the Romanian authorities to capitalize on the country’s access to the Black Sea.
One of the first training-ships of the Romanian navy was the Brig Mircea, which at present celebrates over 70 years of existence. Actually this is the second brig, replacing the first, built in 1882 and decommissioned in 1939. The first brig was actually a schooner (a two-masted vessel dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries). Built in 1939, the second vessel, which besides wind power also uses a diesel engine, serves as a training ship of the "Mircea cel Bătrân" Naval Academy. Its construction began at the Blohm und Voss shipyard in Hamburg in 1938 and the brig Mircea arrived in Romania on May the 17th 1939.
It is a three-masted sail ship, highly superior to its predecessor, which was named after the Romanian voivode (ruling prince) who ruled over Dobrudja in the Middle Ages. It has a 1,844 ton displacement, a total length of 81.18 meters and a 12 meter width. The 1,100 horsepower diesel engine allows the ship to sail at a speed of 9.5 knots. It has 23 sails with a total surface of 1,750 square meters and a crew of 200 men of which 120 are students. In the past years 10 foreign cadets have been accepted to the ship for its annual training trip.
In 1966, the ship was refurbished and upgraded at the same shipyard in Hamburg. Modern navigation equipment was added, and the ship underwent more upgrading works between 1992 and 2002 at the shipyard of Brăila. The training-ship Mircea has four sisters: ‘Eagle’, belonging to the United States, ‘Gorch Foch’ under a German flag, ‘Tovarisci’ belonging to Russian fleet, and the Portuguese ship ‘Sagres’.
In WW II, on September the 5th 1944 to be precise, the brig Mircea, along with the entire Romanian fleet, was seized by the USSR and was in captivity four years. It was back into Romanian service in 1948. Along the years, Mircea sailed the world’s seas and had its maiden voyage to the Mediterranean in its very first year, 1939. In 1967, ‘71, ‘75 and ‘79 the brig set sail for the Atlantic, which it crossed between March the 4th and August the 30th, when it reached the US coast. A year before it had dropped the anchor in the North Sea.
In 2007 the ship joined the Tall Ship Race in the Mediterranean, sailing from Alicante, Spain, to Barcelona, Toulon, in France, and Genoa, Italy. It got the Maritime Spirit Award in Toulon.
My great-grandfather’s Great War demob order
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