A MEMORIAL to the sinking of HMS Foylebank in Portland Harbour could be put up on the island.

Dorset Council is being asked to agree the application from the Island and Royal Manor of Portland Court Leet.

The stone memorial, featuring a seating area and plinth, if approved, will be erected at Priory Corner close to the beacon, opposite the Portland Heights Hotel and stone circle. The seating will face where Foylebank was at anchor in Portland Harbour when she was attacked by German dive bombers on July 4, 1940.

The Foylebank incident was one of the most tragic, yet heroic, incidents of the Second World War. It is best remembered for the part played by Leading Seaman Jack Mantle, aged 23.

Despite his injuries, he remained at his post on the Starboard 2 Pounder Pom-Pom Gun, fighting fiercely for his country until the bitter end.

When the ship’s power failed Jack, from Affpuddle continued to operate the gun entirely by hand and continued firing until he collapsed and died. He was later, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Germans struck HMS Foylebank while she was waiting to accompany a convoy.

Reports later revealed that first bomb shattered Jack Mantle’s left leg. Behind his gun, as the bullets flew around him, the 23-year-old recoiled in agony.

Further wounds were to follow as Hitler’s Luftwaffe targeted Portland Harbour and soon it became apparent to Jack that he was seriously injured.

He was, in fact, dying.

Jack Mantle’s skill had already come to the notice of his superiors.

One of the first naval gunners to bring down an enemy aircraft on convoy protection service, he was due to be mentioned in despatches on July 11 for gallantry while serving on the River Thames.

The day before the attack, a German reconnaissance plane flew high over Portland. From then on HMS Foylebank was ready for action, her crew looking to the skies for the first sign of trouble.

But the crew was taken by surprise when the attack finally came.

Crippled, his body wracked with pain, Jack clung to his post, desperately focusing on the enemy fighter planes, before firing off round after round.

When the electricity aboard the ship failed, he carried on firing the gun using the hand-gear, until he finally passed out.

Jack was taken to Portland Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The ship itself and a tug were sunk. Nine other vessels were damaged.

But Jack’s bravery had left an indelible mark in the memory of his commanding officer Captain Wilson and the recommendation that he be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross was soon made by Admiral Sir William James, commander-in-chief of Portsmouth naval base.On September 3, The London Gazette carried the report on his death: It stated: “Early in the action his left leg was shattered by a bomb, but he stood fast at his gun, and went on firing with hand-gear only, for the ship’s electric power had failed. Almost at once he was wounded again in many places.

“Between his bursts of fire he had time to reflect on the grievous injuries of which he was soon to die; but his courage bore him up till the end of the fight, when he fell by the gun he had so valiantly served.” Proud parents John and Jeannie Mantle were presented with the medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace in June 1941.

Jack Mantle is buried in Portland Naval Cemetery, on the Verne Common hillside, with the following epitaph: 'Because we did not choose to shame the land from which we sprang'.

In 2003 Ernest Pettiford, one of the survivors, spoke to the Echo about the bombing. The engineering artificer had been working on the master compass on the main deck of the anti-aircraft auxiliary when the alarm had sounded. But there was no time to act. More than 20 JU87 Stuka dive-bombers had targeted Portland and Foylebank, moored beside the Admiral’s Buoy, was right in the firing line.

“The first bomb hit within seconds,” said Ernest.

“The ship was soon a blazing inferno. People were screaming and shouting and swearing. We had no anti-flash gear and I caught the full blast.

“I tried to get my gas mask on but that was blown away. I had burns on my face, hands, legs, everywhere. I knew I had to get off the ship, which was completely ablaze.”

“I was lucky: 72 people died that day and dozens more of the 292 on board were injured.”

Comments on the proposed memorial are open to the public until October 8 with the application expected to be decided by a council officer under delegated powers.