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Crew of tragic wartime patrol boat honoured in the craft’s home port

7 July 2022
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The first monument to a popular pleasure cruiser sunk in World War 2 has been unveiled in the community she once served.

Thanks to the efforts of Royal Navy sailor Richard Jones, a memorial to HMS Yorkshire Belle was dedicated in Bridlington.

Nine men died instantly when the craft, converted into a small patrol boat to meet the demands of the wartime Navy, struck a mine in April 1941 during a patrol of defences in the Humber.

The tragedy was covered up by wartime censorship, while bigger events in Africa, the Balkans and in the Atlantic eclipsed the loss of a small boat.

But Petty Officer Richard Jones has made it his mission to champion and honour forgotten or overlooked disasters.

The Bridlington memorial is the ninth the sailor, currently serving aboard Britain’s biggest warship, HMS Prince of Wales, has helped to inaugurate.

He has also found time during his 21-year career as a communications specialist/weapons engineers in the Navy to produce 17 books on tragedies and disasters as varied as train crashes to devastating storms at sea.

The loss of the Yorkshire Belle, however, is one which touches a personal nerve: the vessel briefly served his hometown on the eve of World War 2, offering trips to tourists.

She was commandeered by the Royal Navy in November 1939 and used as a coastal patrol/boom defence vessel as HMS or HM Patrol Vessel Yorkshire Belle, under the White Ensign and crewed by a mixture of junior and senior ratings from across the country.

This is the first step in remembering this forgotten shipwreck and important part of Bridlington’s history

Royal Navy sailor Richard Jones

Only four of the bodies were recovered; three were subsequently buried in Grimsby. The names of the remaining five sailors are listed on the national naval memorials in Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth.

“This is the first step in remembering this forgotten shipwreck and important part of Bridlington’s history,” said Richard.

“This will be the first time that the Yorkshire Belle has ever been in the media – her loss was never announced in the newspapers at the time and her loss was only ever felt to those closest to the vessel or her crew. This memorial changes this.”

The Yorkshire Belle was replaced with an almost-identical vessel in 1947 and is still running 75 years later, offering pleasure cruises to Bridlington’s visitors. 

The memorial was funded and built by a local concrete firm, with ex-sailors of Bridlington’s Royal Naval Association dipping into their pockets to pay for the plaque, while general fundraising and design work was carried out by Richard and veteran Martin Barmby.

All turned out in force for the unveiling and, having honoured the crew, Richard’s challenge is now to tell the story of those men; any relatives or family members should contact him on email.

Pictures courtesy of Ian Ellis.

 

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