Service on Portland remembers the loss of 29 seamen

Dorset Echo: CROWDS GATHER: Chaplain John Lewis leads the service in memory of crew who CROWDS GATHER: Chaplain John Lewis leads the service in memory of crew who

THE tragic loss of 29 seamen in a naval disaster was remembered at a service on Portland.

A crowd gathered at Osprey Quay to remember those who perished in the HMS Illustrious tragedy 64 years ago.

The service was held at a memorial stone that was unveiled in memory of the seamen who died when the pinnace travelling to HMS Illustrious sank in a gale in Portland Harbour in 1948.

Sea cadets joined in the service and placed a wreath at the stone as a tribute to the fallen.

Vice chairman of the HMS Illustrious Association Mike Brockwell said he was impressed by the turnout as over 20 veterans and their family members paid their respects.

He said: “It was very good, it’s important to remember, this year was the 64th year and it’s also going to be very important next year as it’s the 65th.

“It lives long in the memory for some of the people who were on board the ship at the time.”

Eric Lefley was among the servicemen on HMS Illustrious on the night of the tragedy 64 years ago.

He said he still remembered the wind blowing and the news coming through about the liberty boat going down.

Mr Lefley, who was serving in the air division, said: “One or two of the chaps were from the same mess as me.

“It’s important to remember these types of thing really, it was quite a number that went down.”

Mr Lefley travelled from West Sussex for the service while other members of the HMS Illustrious came from Bolton and Topsham in Devon.

The association hopes to make next year’s service a major event as it is planning to hold its reunion weekend to coincide with the event.

The tragedy on October 17, 1948 was one of the worst ever peacetime naval tragedies.

The 29 crew on board the pinnace, many of whom were just 18, had been out for the day in Weymouth and were returning to HMS Illustrious when they ran into extreme weather conditions in the harbour and sank just 50 yards from the aircraft carrier.

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