22 NAVY NEWS, APRIL 2010
Whatever the size of the memorial – from an imposing wall or huge piece of Welsh granite to a brass plaque, whatever the location – a Falklands promontory, a remote fjord, or a mediaeval church by the shores of the Baltic, our debt of gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom is not forgotten. Brick by brick, the Basra
below by Cpl Scott Robertson
RAF) was taken down by engineers outside the former headquarters of British operations in southern Iraq. And brick by brick, it took shape anew at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, where it was formally rededicated on an early spring day.
The brass plaques on the wall name all 178 men and women from the three Services, plus one MOD civilian, killed during Britain’s six-year military operation in Iraq.
WALLS, stone slabs, plaques.
● (Left) AB Bill Harlow of HMS Penelope shares chocolate with fi ve-year-old Magnus Johan Pedersen in Skjelfjord in May or June 1940 while (above and right) the granite memorials to HMS Glamorgan and the men of the Channel Dash; the former will be dedicated in the Falklands next year, the latter is now in situ on Ramsgate seafront
The Kent coast was blanketed by snow as one of the most heroic episodes in Fleet Air Arm history was commemorated with the unveiling of a monument, 68 years to the day of the Channel
Some 500 relatives of the fallen joined the Duke of Gloucester, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, defence ministers and senior officers at the service.
The seafront at Ramsgate was chosen as the location for the granite block honouring the 18 men of 825 NAS who climbed into their Swordfish bombers to intercept a breakout by the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and the cruiser Prinz Eugen. All six Swordfish were shot down, and all but five of the aircrew were killed. Every one of them was honoured, from CO Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde who earned the VC to his men who shared four DSOs, one Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and 12 Mentions in Dispatches among them. It was another 65 years before the Channel Dash Association was formed to publicly celebrate the men’s deeds, a celebration which came to fruition on an otherwise bleak February day. The association’s patron Admiral the Lord Boyce unveiled the memorial, while the head of the Fleet Air Arm, Rear Admiral Simon Charlier, read out the names of the Dash heroes. Before the unveiling, the ashes of Dash survivors Lt Cdr Edgar Lee and S/Lt ‘Mac’ Samples – both aviators crossed the bar last year – were scattered in the
Channel as a bugler from the RM Band Collingwood sounded
the Last Post.
There was snow on the ground too – perhaps understandably – in Narvik in northern Norway when sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Albion paused their winter training on Exercise
Cold Response (see the centre
pages) to head for the port’s new cemetery. There lie the bodies of 34 Commonwealth servicemen, two dozen of them sailors, most from destroyer HMS Hunter, sunk during the First Battle of Narvik on April 10 1940. Maj Gen Buster Howes, commander of the UK’s amphibious forces, led tributes to Allied servicemen buried at the cemetery; aside from Royal Navy personnel killed in the two naval battles for the port, there was a protracted ground struggle for Narvik involving Norwegian, Polish, French and British forces against German mountain infantry.
Some 110 miles west of Narvik the small community which lives on the shores of Skjelfjord will honour the British sailors who tried to defend Norway from Nazi aggression.
received more than half a dozen direct hits from German shells, while Eskimo’s bow was blown off by an enemy torpedo in the dying throes of the battle on Saturday April 13 1940.
In the aftermath of battle, both ships were taken to Skjelfjord and provided with escorts, including HMS Penelope, so emergency repairs could be effected.
In doing so, however, Cossack
E18 will be commemorated next month nearly a century after their boat vanished.
Thirty British sailors plus three Russian liaison offi cer
down on June 1 1916 when E18 either struck a mine or was sunk by gunfi re from German surface ships off the island of Hiiumaa in the Gulf of Riga.
s went will be a service of
remembrance in Tallinn’s Puhavaimu Kirik – Church of the Holy Spirit – for the men of E18 before a plaque is unveiled in their memory.
Eskimo was eventually towed back to Barrow, Cossack made her way to Portsmouth under her own steam. The two ships returned to active duties and continued to serve with distinction. Locals proved indispensable in helping the British sailors patch up their ships; Cossack responded by throwing a tea party for the Norwegians while a young AB from Penelope, Bill Harlow, shared his bars of chocolate with fi ve-
Magnus Johan Pedersen. After seven decades, Bill and Magnus – who still lives in Skjelfjord – are in touch once more as Norwegians prepare a more permanent ‘thank you’ to the men of 1940.
In the spring of 1940, HM Ships Cossack and Eskimo took shelter in Skjelfjord – labelled the Norwegian Scapa Flow by Churchill – after being severely damaged at the Second Battle of Narvik.
Both destroyers helped wipe out the remains of a ten-strong German destroyer force which had been sent to capture the
A commemorative stone is due to be dedicated in the fjord on August 28, hopefully in the presence of veterans from Penelope and Cossack (both of which have very active associations).
Back then, Estonia was part of the Tsarist Russian Empire and British submarines were dispatched to Reval – today the capital Tallinn – to harry German shipping in the Baltic. The wreck of E18 was found last year by Swedish historian and explorer Carl Douglas and Australian Darren Brown following years of research in international archives to trace the course of that fateful last patrol.
relatives of six crewmen have been traced, including those of E18’s slightly eccentric CO Lt Cdr Robert Halahan (aside from being particularly superstitious, he also insisted on conducting his ablutions on the surface… occasionally placing his boat in peril).
The Russian Submariners’ Club is trying to track down descendants of three Russian offi cer
relatives of the 24 British crew not yet tracked down, they’re invited to contact Robert Davenport, who’ll be heading to Estonia at the end of May. Lt Cdr Halahan was his grandmother’s fi r
Besides the monument, there will be a small display case detailing the fjord’s role in the war, plus benches for visitors to admire this isolated – and beautiful – part of Norway. In the Baltic, the long-lost dead of His Majesty’s Submarine
s lost, but as for the Since that discovery, the
Details about the commemorations are available from Mr Davenport at Hall Court, Bishops Frome, Herefordshire, WR6 5BY or robertdavenport@
And so to another impending dedication, half a world away. By this time next year, a large slab of Welsh granite will stand at Hookers Point, three miles east of Stanley, in the Falklands. It was from here on Saturday June 12 1982 that the Argentines fired an Exocet missile at a blip on a radar screen. That blip was Her Majesty’s
Ship Glamorgan, manoeuvring away from the Falklands after pounding enemy positions on Two Sisters in support of an assault by 45 Commando. The destroyer took evasive action, enough to ensure the missile did not impact the ship’s side, but struck the aft upper deck and hangar, blowing apart her Wessex helicopter and causing a confl ag
Fourteen men were killed. Over the ensuing three and a half hours, the ship’s company fought to save the destroyer. Aside from tackling the fi r
st husband; after his death, she married Mr Davenport’s grandfather. Around 12 relatives and veteran submariners will be attending the memorial service as well as visiting historic naval sites in Tallinn over the weekend of May 29 to June 1.
The highlight of the weekend
es, they shifted sacks of potatoes in the galley to improve Glamorgan’s stability, while MEM John Whitton swam through compartments fl ooded with water from the fi refi ghting to open drains.
All of which was rather forgotten in the euphoria of victory; the Argentine surrender in Stanley came just 48 hours after Glamorgan was hit. Glamorgan’s tag as the ‘forgotten ship’ of the Falklands
The ship made it back to Portsmouth thanks, inter alia, to a Herculean effort from her crew who patched up the damage with steel abandoned by the Argentinians on South Georgia… and melted down spoons from the wardroom. Cdr Inskip’s visit prompted veterans to raise money for a Glamorgan memorial. Seven years down the line, it’s almost fi nished. Fittingly, it’s carved from polished Welsh granite from the Trefor Quarry, near Pwllheli, and lists the names of all 14 fallen, plus the brief but moving words of the Kohima epitaph. That centrepiece memorial stone will be surrounded by small square granite setts (symbolising the ship’s company) and 14 round ones (for the dead). A dozen veterans visited North Wales to view progress on the memorial and arrangements are now being made to ship it to the South Atlantic. To date, the Glamorgan Falklands Association has raised £10,000 of the £12,000 needed to complete the memorial. REME engineers will install the monument at Hookers Point, aligning it so it faces out towards the point 19 miles away where Glamorgan was hit. The memorial is due to be dedicated in February 2011. More details about the project – and how to donate to it – can be found at www.hmsglamorgan.
War persisted. When her former navigator Ian Inskip visited the islands in back in 2003, he found memorials to every ship lost… but none to the men of Glamorgan.
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