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British Forces in Bahrain honour last wish of sailor’s widow

AB Joe Sullivan pictured in Bahrain in August 1956
3 April 2021
British personnel in Bahrain carried out the last wish of a sailor’s widow – 65 years to the day the couple were married.

June Daniels always wanted, but never managed to visit the grave of Able Seaman Joseph Sullivan, killed in a road crash in the Gulf kingdom in December 1957 after just 21 months of marriage.

June subsequently remarried, had two children and five grandchildren, living a full life in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey until her passing in February aged 82 – but it was also tinged with sadness at the loss of her first husband.

Even in her final days her family say she was still able to look at a photograph and say, “that’s my Joe”.

“Mum was married and widowed in less than 21 months, which was a sadness she kept to herself her whole life,” said her daughter Michele Weaver.

“Mum had a lifelong hope to one day visit Joe’s grave in Bahrain, but she sadly never managed it.”

She reached out to the Royal Navy via the War Graves Photographic Project, set up by retired sailor Steve Rogers to record the memorials of service personnel around the world.

 And so on the Sullivans’ 65th wedding anniversary, Naval chaplain Reverend Balogun led a service for the couple at Joe’s graveside in the Old Christian Cemetery in Bahrain, attended by the Royal Navy’s Deputy Commander in the region, Captain Nick Wood and Army Postal Courier Corporal Jim Allen.

We feel at peace in the sense that mum’s dear wish to mark Joe’s passing and remember their time together in Bahrain has been fulfilled

Michele Weaver

Jim is performing the duty today which Joe carried out more than 60 years ago. After seven years in the Navy, the young able seaman arrived in Bahrain in 1956 to serve as the mailman, collecting and distributing post and parcels from Muharraq Airport to sailors based at HMS Jufair, the Royal Navy’s then base in the kingdom.

A keen sportsman, Joe played for the base’s football and cricket teams, while the couple settled into married life, enjoying spare time at Zellaq beach, Christmas and other celebrations in the wardroom gardens including church fetes and BBQ’s.

That ended abruptly when Joe was killed aged just 23 in a lorry accident on December 17 1957. June returned to the UK as a young widow and enrolled on a nursing course to pick up the pieces of her life.

“It meant so much to me personally, to be able to fulfil June’s wishes and pay tribute to AB Sullivan and the valuable contribution he made to the Naval Service,” said Lieutenant Commander Sarah Vines from the staff of the UK Maritime Component Command, the Royal Navy’s HQ in the Middle East.

“People are the Armed Forces most important asset, and whether past or present, they remain part of the Forces family.  It was a real honour to be able to pay our respects to Joe and his late wife.”

Sarah read a tribute to Joe, provided by the family, which was made even more moving as it came the day after June’s funeral in the UK, and fell on the date of their wedding, held 65 years earlier in South Shields.

Michele says her family has been deeply moved by the efforts of personnel in Bahrain.

 “We feel very fortunate to have had the Royal Navy’s support in this tribute to them both and we feel at peace in the sense that mum’s dear wish to mark Joe’s passing and remember their time together in Bahrain has been fulfilled,” she added.

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