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Veteran submariner heads to London thanks to silent service's "unbreakable bond"

8 December 2017
The unbreakable bond binding the men and women of the Royal Navy Submarine Service was recently demonstrated when serving personnel and trainees joined forces to aid a veteran in distress.

On October 12 this year, Second World War submariner Harry Melling was the victim of a callous robbery in his Wigan home. An unknown assailant made his way into the 92-year-old's house and pushed the veteran to the ground before stealing his wallet.

Hearing of the incident, fellow submariner and Command Warrant Officer, Andy Knox, decided to pay Harry a visit to see how he could help.

"I learned about Harry's ordeal on the national news as I was driving from Portsmouth to Faslane," explained Andy. "I got his address from his local church and arranged to call in. I was soon listening to some of Harry's fascinating stories about his time in the Submarine Service."

Joining as a "Hostilities Only" rating, meaning he would serve only for the duration of the War, Harry was drafted to the submarine training course in May 1941. After a brief period on depot ship HMS Medway, he joined Royal Navy submarine HMS Osiris in July 1943.

The submarine, with the young Harry Melling on board, later went on to play an active role in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. As British, US and Canadian troops made amphibious landings, HMS Osiris acted to intercept Italian warships attempting to halt the invasion.

Harry was really keen to attend so I decided to go to my fellow submariners at HM Naval Base Clyde to see what we could do to raise money to get Harry there. It became a sort of mission for us - let's get Harry to London!

Warrant Officer Andy Knox

Harry later went on to join HMS Tuna, the submarine involved with clandestinely transporting the famous Royal Marine Cockleshell Heroes to France in order to carry out attacks on enemy shipping.

"When I visited Harry I mentioned that the Submariners' Remembrance Service and Parade was due to be held in London," continued Andy. "Harry was really keen to attend so I decided to go to my fellow submariners at HM Naval Base Clyde to see what we could do to raise money to get Harry there. It became a sort of mission for us - let's get Harry to London!"

Engineering Technician Barwick from HM Naval Base Clyde soon set up a Just Giving page with the initial aim of raising £500. But the response from the submariner community was overwhelming, eventually raising an amazing £1,500.

Contributing to the cause were twenty junior submariners who had recently passed-out from the Submarine Qualifying Course (SMQ) at HM Naval Base Clyde.

During their passing-out parade on November 2, the trainees presented Warrant Officer Knox with a cheque for £305 to help Harry.

On November 4-5, Harry joined fellow submariners at a poignant service at Westminster Abbey and on the Sunday joined an estimated 400 participants at the National Submarine War Memorial in Middle Temple Gardens, London, for the Parade and main service.

Accompanied by his Great Nephew, Matthew, and Matthew's fiancée Eleanor, Harry paid tribute to those submariners who had "Crossed the Bar" in the service of their country.

"Getting Harry to London was an amazing example of the unbreakable bond which submariners share, regardless of the years which separate them," said Andy Knox. "We very much take the attitude of 'once a submariner, always a submariner' and were delighted we could help."

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