Young sailors pay their respects at the service in HM Naval Base Clyde.

By Lucy Ashton

MILITARY personnel at HM Naval Base Clyde recently commemorated the sinking of the Wartime HMS Neptune during a ceremony at the site’s memorial to the tragedy.

Today’s HMS Neptune is the shore establishment at HM Naval Base Clyde, responsible for providing support and facilities to the personnel at the base.

A few took a moment out of their day to remember the Leander-class light cruiser which hit an Italian minefield off Tripoli on December 19, 1941, sinking with the loss of 767 lives.

During the outdoor commemoration, which was led by HMS Neptune Chaplain, Reverend Mark Noakes, two Royal Navy Sailors from the Unit Personnel Office read the Survivor’s story.

There was only one survivor – 20-year-old Able Seaman Norman Walton – who managed to clamber down the ship’s anchor and find a nearby raft.  He was eventually picked up by an Italian ship and spent the next 15 months as a prisoner of war.

When told that no-one else had survived Norman refused to believe it.  It wasn’t until he was repatriated in 1943 and the Royal Navy confirmed the story that the reality hit home; even then it was a reality that was “hard to take in”.

Captain of HMS Neptune, Captain Nick Gibbons, RIGHT, read the words of remembrance during the service.

“Eighty years ago, on the night of the 19 December, the Royal Navy suffered one of the most tragic losses of the Second World War with the sinking of HMS Neptune, and her escort HMS Kandahar. Of her ship’s company of 765 sailors and marines, only one man survived,” said Captain Gibbons.

“It is important that today, the current Ship’s company of HMS Neptune, based here within HMNB Clyde, remember and give thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“It’s also important that we take time to think of those who will be serving throughout the Christmas period and remember their families and loved ones too.  It is their collective sacrifice that protects us all and keeps the UK safe 365 days a year.”

Top picture:  Naval Base Commander, Commodore Bob Anstey lays a wreath at the event.

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