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HMS Illustrious sailors honoured at special service on Portland
TRIBUTES were paid at an annual service on Portland in memory of 29 sailors who died in the HMS Illustrious pinnace disaster.
Members of the Portland Sea Cadets, the HMS Illustrious Association, Royal Naval Asso-ciation, standard bearers, dignitaries and guests attended the memorial service at Portland Marina.
It was held in honour of sailors who lost their lives 1948 when a pinnace (a tender) taking them back to HMS Illustrious after a day ashore sank in stormy weather in Portland harbour.
Some 50 men were aboard the boat when she sank – and 29, mostly young, men died – making it one of the worst peacetime naval disasters.
Frances Garton, honorary secretary of the southern branch of the HMS Illustrious Association, said: “The Saturday morning was miserable with a light drizzle, a strong wind and black clouds. “However by 11 O’Clock the rain stopped and with Portland Sea Cadets, standard bearers, members of HMS Illustrious Association and guests, a service to remember the 29 young men who lost their lives in the pinnace disaster was begun by the Rev John Lewis, chaplain to the Portland Sea Cadets. Sea Cadet Kiara Lane laid a wreath at the Pinnace Memorial.
“Guided by Rev Lewis we sang the hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save, accompanied by the cadet band. “Also present was the rector of Portland, the Rev Tim Gomm, and assistant curate Mark Phill-ips, who hopes to take over from Rev John Lewis as newly appoin-ted chaplain for the sea cadets.
“Prayers were said and a bugle sounded Last Post and Reveille as ‘we remembered them’. It was a brief and moving service.”
Standard bearers represented Dorchester RNA, Portland RNA, Weymouth RNA, HMS Ganges Association, Weymouth and Portland RNA and the Merchant Navy.
After the service, honorary vice chairman of the HMS Illustrious Association Mike Brockwell presented a framed HMS Illustrious ship’s badge to CPO Damien Hawkins of HMS Penn Portland Sea Cadets. At the service was Moira Dell, one of four sisters, whose brother Robert Fennell died in 1948 when the pinnace went down.
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