NAVY NEWS, JUNE 2011
Closure of Harrier recalled
HOW many readers will remember attending the windswept divisions on the cliff-top at HMS Harrier (RN Air Direction School and Met Schools) at Kete, near Dale, Pembrokeshire,
where once a
wind speed of 106 mph had been recorded during a hurricane in 1954?
Some of those who had
served there returned at the end of April for an RN-themed event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the closing of Harrier, which started life in 1943 as HMS Goldcrest before changing names in 1948. The Coastlands Local History Group were hosts for the exhibition, and at the church service at St James Church, standards were paraded from the Association of Wrens (Cardigan and Pembrokeshire Branch) and the RNA (Aberporth, Haven, and Pembroke Dock branches). A guard of honour was
provided by the TS Harrier Sea Cadet unit, from Milford Haven. On return from the church
service visitors tucked into a very generous home-baked Welsh spread.
The celebration cake, iced with a replica of the Harrier crest, was cut by Julia Clark, Chairwoman of the Association of Wrens, with a Naval officer’s sword.
The exhibition in the
Coronation Hall, Dale, remained open for four days, and included veterans’ uniforms, memorabilia, and stories from ex-RN and WRNS personnel, together with related
accounts residents. The Cloudobservers
Association (for ex-RN and WRNS Met Observers) also provided an impressive display, with two
especially created for the occasion – Life at Kete and The Royal Navy at Dale. Further
details from www.
l Pictured are some of the main guests in the wardroom of HMS Flying Fox before the 92nd annual dinner of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Old Comrades’ Association, including the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Cllr C Smith, Association President Cdre G Wood RNR, Association Patron Maj Norman Ricketts RM, Cdr D Kay RNR and Lt Cdr M Borer of the Bath White Ensign OCA. Two Sea Cadets from Bristol (Knowle) unit and two Royal Marine Cadets from Bristol (Filton) unit paraded the Association’s Colours before the dinner got under way
£50 PRIZE PUZZLE Steady as she goes
THE outgoing Chairman of Cheshunt branch, S/M Victor Everest, was presented with a large plaque depicting a ship’s wheel by his successor S/M Eric Robinson. As Vice Chairman and Chairman of the branch, S/M Everest stepped
down on reaching the age of 80 after 25 years of dedicated service. The ship’s wheel motif
represents Victor’s acumen in keeping the
branch on a steady course and maintaining strong membership. He also supported the HMS Ganges Association and the association for HMS Manxman, in which he served during the Suez Crisis in 1956.
Virtual Branch is ready for business
THERE is a new branch opening conveniently near you
– literally right up your street. The RNA’s Virtual Branch
initiative is due to get under way in the next few weeks, reaching out by phone to members who cannot get to meetings at existing branches.
Which means that someone who is perhaps housebound and who misses the comradeship of branch meetings can ‘attend’ a meeting over a phone line.
The idea is not new – telephone
befriending and teleconferencing groups have been organised by the charity Community Network in the UK since 1990. Speaking at an RNA Welfare seminar at HMS Nelson, Jennifer Reiter of the Community Network told delegates that one of the charity’s most successful initiatives was the Seafarers Link.
Research in 2007 funded by the
Maritime Charity Funding Group looked at the needs, welfare and dignity of thousands of older
seafarers and their dependents. The results showed that such people could more easily become socially isolated and suffer poorer health than the average. Seafaring was deemed to be more than just an occupation – it was a way of life, and after being away at sea mariners could find it difficult to integrate back into social groups ashore. The result was a programme of
fortnightly telephone conference groups, starting with two in Hull in June 2009, with further groups
starting in Wallasey and Cardiff within weeks.
in a phone group, providing an opportunity to meet new people, share stories and swap experiences. The scheme has since expanded into additional areas. RNA National Welfare Advisor
S/M Rita Lock told delegates that the RNA Virtual Branch is designed on similar lines, with free hour-long fortnightly telephone conferences which will bring male and female seafarers together to talk and share memories. Each group will consist of up to eight members plus a trained facilitator or organiser who sets up the ‘meeting’, calls members at the appropriate time, manages the meeting and closes it after an hour.
They linked up to eight callers
Such meetings could be recorded,
researchers in the future to meet with individuals with a view to recording their memories for archive purposes. As the link is made by phone, there would not need to be a geographic factor in membership, and future groups could be cross- specialisation, though there would be scope for branches catering for just stokers, WAFUs or other groups if the scheme is successful and expands.
Link groups tended to start with some formality, but once members got to know each other there was a dramatic increase in dynamism; one group, which includes a former
swapping recipes, chatting about holidays and making plans to meet up in person.
people,” said S/M Rita, who said the first branch was due to go live shortly after Navy News went to press.
would be open to fully-paid-up full and associate members – and that they were looking for names for these branches. For further details
information contact HQ on 023 9272 3747 or 023 9272 2983.
THE mystery ship in our April edition (right) was the battleship
HMS Queen Elizabeth. And Peter Phillips, of Tiverton in
Devon, was the winner of our £50 prize for identifying her. This month’s mystery ship (pictured above) was launched in late 1974 and went on to serve in the Falklands Conflict.
She was decommissioned by the Royal Navy in the mid-1990s and bought by Pakistan, for whom she continues to serve alongside sister frigates including PNS Tariq, Babur, Tippu Sultan and Khaibar.
What was her name, and what name did she assume when she joined the Pakistan Navy?
Complete the coupon and send it to Mystery Picture, Navy News, HMS Nelson, Portsmouth PO1 3HH.
Memorial honours US aviators’ sacrifice
Coupons giving the correct answer will go into a prize draw to establish a winner. Closing date for entries is July 15 2011. More than one entry can be submitted but photocopies cannot be accepted. Do not include anything else in your envelope: no correspondence can be entered into and no entry returned.
The winner will be announced in our August edition. The competition is not open to Navy News employees or their families.
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THE efforts of a member of Cheshunt branch have resulted in the unveiling of a memorial to a gallant American air crew who died while ensuring their bomb-laden plane avoided civilian populations. S/M Ernie Havers was a 15-year-old fireman on
duty in August 1944 when a B-24 Liberator bomber of the 392nd Bombardment Group (Heavy) from RAF Wendling in Norfolk ran into trouble – various reports speak of multiple engine problems or a tail damaged in a collision with another bomber. The crew did not bail out, but stayed with pilot
Lt John Ellis USAF as he wrestled the stricken plane away from the streets of Waltham Cross and Cheshunt and crash-landed in a field at Maxwell’s Farm. The crash set the fully-loaded aircraft ablaze, and it exploded as firefighters rushed to the site. Another eyewitness, Ron Bennett (who later went on to join the RN, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander) was the same age as Ernie when he and his father saw the Liberator in its death throes, recalling a sickening thud and a column of smoke followed later by an explosion and the sound of bullets going off.
In a submission to the Hertsmemories website
) Ron also recalls three American fighters flying over the site shortly afterwards in a moving tribute to their fallen compatriots. Ten American airmen died in the accident, but thanks to their sacrifice only one civilian was hurt, a young girl struck by debris who later recovered. S/M Ernie, a seasoned firefighter even at the age
of 15, and just coming off a night shift dealing with V-1 flying bombs, and although he had seen plenty
of the horrors of war he said the appalling scene of destruction was still seared into his mind despite the passing of almost seven decades. He made a vow there and then that one day he
would see a memorial created to “ten true gentlemen” who gave their lives to save hundreds of others. Now, with the help of a local benefactor, that
memorial to the crew has been unveiled at St Mary’s School, just off Lieutenant Ellis Way, a road renamed in honour of the doomed pilot. Present at the ceremony was Lt Ellis’s daughter,
Mrs Mary Lee Ellis-Hughes, not quite one year old when her father died, and granddaughters Michelle Hatata and Annette Todaro. Representing the military were Col Sonny Blinkinsop USAF and Air Vice Marshal Herriman, and a Guard of Honour from the US Air Force base at Mildenhall. Members of Cheshunt branch turned out in
numbers, along with the Royal British Legion with their respective standards. Cheshunt branch padre Rev Jane Dicker conducted
the service, while S/M Ernie gave the dedication, which he entitled ‘Beyond Courage’, a title which is now being taken up as a charity to help injured servicemen. Ernie spoke of the unsurpassed courage of the
airmen, and bid everyone keep the words ‘beyond courage’ in their minds. Mrs Hatata said that the service and dedication
was “beautiful”, adding: “We could not imagine as a family that today would be remembered so far from my grandfather’s home in Kansas, and it is amazing that Ernie would carry this in his head for 67 years.”
or She added the Virtual Branches target isolated Wren, sees members
“The RNA was looking to establish at least three groups initially, and to
S/M Rita said that Seafarers paving the way for
Gardens formally opened
DESPITE thunderstorms and heavy rain the day before, the sun shone brightly in Pershore for the official opening and blessing of the town’s new Commemorative Garden. Crowds of residents gathered to see the Northfield Caledonia Pipes and Drums lead representatives from various West Midland branches of both the RNA and the Royal British Legion, together with veterans from the Worcester Regiment, Mercian Regiment and a lieutenant commander from the Canadian Navy. Joining them were both
Pershore and Evesham Sea Cadets, St John’s Ambulance and Pershore 1st Scouts. In all over 500 people gathered round to see Pershore branch Chairman S/M Ted Annis and branch secretary S/M Trudy Burge lift the Union Flag to unveil the stone at precisely 3pm –specifically timed on the 66th anniversary of VE Day to match that when King George VI and Winston Churchill addressed the nation in a radio broadcast. In the presence of the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Michael Brinton, Rev Kenneth Crawford and Canon Richard Etheridge (RNA Chaplain) formally blessed and dedicated the stone in which a hand-painted commemoration plaque reads: ‘May God protect our Armed Forces and those who willingly serve our Country. Long live our Blessed Sovereign’. Immediately afterwards,
Lord Lieutenant of Worcester laid a floral tribute on behalf of the Queen in commemoration of Claude Choules, who died on May 5 aged 110 and was the very last
surviving combatant from
World War 1 (see opposite). He was immediately followed
by the Mayor of Pershore, Cllr Chris Parsons, who laid an anchor wreath to Claude on behalf of the Pershore RNA and people of the District – Claude was born not far from the town in 1901. Trudy Burge and her father
Ted Annis have led the steering group of this £8,500 project from its original concept back in 2005 to its opening, with Trudy latterly taking charge since Ted’s health deteriorated last July. In conjunction with Wychavon Council, the project was moved to its present location which many agree is the most perfect spot in the town, overlooking Pershore Abbey at the entrance to Abbey Park.
Speaking about commemorating Claude Choules, Trudy explained: “We learnt on Thursday morning that Claude had crossed the bar and the more I read about Claude on the Internet of how he actively shunned Remembrance parades, together with the fact that his family are calling on people to commemorate his long life, I just thought it was almost meant to happen at the time that we were opening this Commemorative Garden in his home town. “After all, this is not a war –
memorial Pershore’s war
memorial is in our beautiful Abbey and nothing will ever detract from that.
“This is a commemoration to our armed forces and people serving their country - it has been designed to be timeless and is meant for those no longer with us, those currently serving and those who may serve in the future.”
MEMBERS of the Algerines Association will be travelling to the Normandy coast early this month to attend the unveiling of a memorial to the minesweepers which were involved in the clearing of channels for the landing craft and other ships during the D-Day Landings. Cyril Banks, a veteran of June
6 1944, will be amongst the party – he was serving on board HMS Ready of the 18th Minesweeper Flotilla at Gold Beach on D-Day.
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