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Collingwood pauses to remember wartime bombing

By Marie Arnott

STAFF FROM HMS COLLINGWOOD joined together with civilians and guests in a moving remembrance ceremony at the Fareham based training establishment; the event paying tribute to thirty-three people who passed away following a wartime bombing exactly eighty years ago this week.

The tragedy occurred on June 18, 1943, and involved a lone German bomber flying behind a squadron of Allied planes above HMS Collingwood. It then dropped two fifty kilogram high-explosive bombs with one landing on the playing fields; the other having deadly consequences as it hit an accommodation hut.

Thirty-three young sailors sadly lost their lives with many experiencing their first time away from home, having been in the Royal Navy for over two weeks. They were all volunteers who were mostly aged between seventeen and eighteen years old; with another thirty-eight suffering a range of injuries as a result.

The service was held on the exact spot as this tragedy and was started by Reverend Jonathan Blackhouse; who spoke of the 80 year anniversary and loss of young sailors throughout the generations to present day. He also spoke about the need to remember and pay respect to those who have died in service.

A minute of silence was further held in remembrance and wreaths laid in honour of the bombing victims. All thirty-three names were read out by Assistant Base Warrant Officer, CPO Andy Gibbs before the Last Post was played by a bugler from Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band to conclude the period of reflection.

Memory cards were further tied to branches of the single tree that acts as a permanent reminder of this tragedy; each displaying a poppy, text from the sailor’s prayer, the names, and ages of all those who died eighty years ago. And personnel were able to view these as an act of appreciation following the service.

Speaking after the remembrance event, Captain Davey said for a press release, “We will always remember those who lost their lives here during the war, particularly today to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the bombing. Tragically, they never lived to fulfil their potential and undertake the service for which they had volunteered, but we will never forget their sacrifice.”

Meanwhile AB Callum Tinsley, 27, added his own personal thoughts:  “It’s quite tough to see how young they were when they lost their lives, they had their whole naval careers in front of them too. They deserve to be remembered for making the ultimate sacrifice.”

In another tribute there was also a trip to Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery to visit the graves of fourteen sailors who died following the bombing. This included personnel of Victory Squadron and this was a moment of reflection for most, given they are similar ages to those who passed away.

PICTURED BY KEITH WOODLAND: Victory Squadron sailors saluting headstones at Haslar cemetery.