Building and Dedicating the Neptune and Kandahar Memorial - 9 July 2005Building and Dedicating the Neptune and Kandahar Memorial - 9 July 2005
The Neptune Association has built a Memorial to the ships companies of HMS Neptune and HMS Kandahar, as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the end of WWII. An oak tree has been planted alongside the memorial, which is in the Royal Naval section of the Arboretum.
There had been no unique memorial to the ships companies of either ship until now, although individual names are commemorated on Memorials at Tripoli, Tobruk, Malta, South Africa, New Zealand, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham. Association members, mostly relatives and friends of those killed aboard both ships, commissioned a 7ft pyramid of local Derbyshire stone as a memorial with all the names of the 836 men who lost their lives and a brief history of the two ships.
The Dedication of the Memorial:
On Saturday 9th July 2005, in glorious sunshine, a commemoration day was held at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffs, with over 400 relatives and friends of the deceased, spanning five generations. After coffee and familiarisation plus a visit to the Millennium Chapel for some, there was a most moving Dedication Service and unveiling of the memorial on site, sensitively led by the Association Chaplain, the Reverend Ron Paterson, (ex-Neptune) with full Naval Ceremonial.
The service was a tribute to the 837 men and involved several sons and daughters as well as a great-granddaughter who represented the different groups of both ships companies, with readings and the unveiling. They were accompanied by representatives from the Services; Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal New Zealand Navy and South African Defence Forces, all of whom lost substantial numbers on board Neptune and Kandahar.
Doves were released at the end of the Remembrance part of the service followed by the laying of wreaths. Ex-shipmates Richard Earp (Neptune) and Bill Young (Kandahar) laid the first wreaths for both ships; a wreath from the current HMS Neptune was laid by the Captain of Clyde Submarine Base, Faslane, who later took the salute; one from New Zealand by the Defence Attache, one from South Africa by the Defence Advisor and one from the Royal Marines by a representative from RMR Birmingham. Wreaths were laid from the George Cross Island Association, the Neptune Association and HMS Lively before families were invited to bring forward their own wreaths and poppy crosses. A lone swan was seen flying silently overhead in the empty blue sky, from south by south-east.
A cake cutting ceremony followed with a magnificent cake made by HMS Drake. Cut with a Naval sword by Nixie, daughter of the Captain of Neptune and a great-grandniece of one of the youngest sailors aboard Kandahar, it was amply divided for all present. A lunch was supplied thanks to the Big Lottery Fund as part of the national end of WWII commemorations. The exhibition was open throughout the event with a display of the forthcoming pictorial booklet, Minefield by Adrian Fewins, bronze and zinc crests by the Wright Foundry who made the bronze ships crests on the Memorial and a model of HMS Ajax, sister ship of Neptune. Nixie Taverners book Neptunes Legacy was on sale and also on sale were four beautiful embroideries commemorating the sinking of Neptune by Diana Clayton.
One letter of the many received after the event summed up the feeling:-
For me it was part last-rites, part thanksgiving and part celebration for the father whom I had not known but only knew of. I am sure that all the other relatives felt, like me, a deep satisfaction that at long last the sacrifice of these men has been recognised with a fitting memorial. Although very emotional it was a most happy and enjoyable day and one that I shall remember vividly all the rest of my life.
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