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Clyde Naval Base personnel commemorate wartime tragedy

20 December 2017
Military personnel and civilians at HM Naval Base Clyde commemorated the sinking of the wartime HMS Neptune on December 19 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.

Many 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 commemoration, HMS Neptune Chaplain, Reverend Richard Rowe, described how ‘the world was on board HMS Neptune’ with sailors from Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and even Buenos Aires making up her crew.

Captain of HMS Neptune, Captain Craig Mearns, took the salute during the event.

The year of the Neptune disaster was a particularly difficult one for the Royal Navy. HMS Hood, Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were all lost to enemy action and when disaster struck HMS Neptune in the Mediterranean the news was initially kept a secret.

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’.

Reverend Rowe read from Able Seaman Walton’s account of the sinking and led the participants in a reading of the Naval Prayer.

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