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Cheshire town remembers its wartime ties with ill-fated destroyer

Cheshire town remembers its wartime ties with ill-fated destroyer
20 January 2023
A new memorial display honours an Ill-fated wartime destroyer – and a Cheshire community’s long-forgotten association with it.

Civic dignitaries, serving and veteran sailors and descendants of those lost aboard HMS Vimiera gathered in Sandbach to witness a memorial unveiled in the town hall, 81 years to the day she was lost in the Thames Estuary.

During a propaganda drive at the end of 1941, villages, towns and cities across were set a fundraising target for ‘Warship Week’.

If they achieved their goal, they were assigned an ‘adopted’ ship.

Set £120,000 – the cost of a corvette at the time – the people of Sandbach actually coughed up over £163,000. Their prize was an affiliation with HMS Vimiera.

Vimiera was one of more than 60 V and W class destroyers built in late WW1 but which continued to prove their worth throughout WW2, largely on unglamorous but vital convoy escort duties.

It lasted barely a month. On January 9th 1942 the destroyer struck a mine off Sheerness and sank. Just 34 men were rescued.

With the passage of time, Sandbach’s association with the destroyer began to fade from memory. 

That was until town hall caretaker Steve Hyland came across the ship’s badge while sorting out the storeroom last year.

That prompted a dig around in the archives and councillors agreeing not merely to restore the crest, but also to create a permanent tribute to the destroyer.

The result just a few months later is the memorial display in the town hall foyer featuring the restored badge, a bell, roll of honour and several photographs.

Alongside councillors, council officials and veterans organisations, witnessing the unveiling of the memorial was David Adderley from Birmingham who made the short trip up the M6 to remember his uncle.

Aged just 22, Able Seaman Norman Tudor was one of the 93 men who went down with the Vimiera. 

"I hope other families will now come and see this as it's a wonderful thing to remember these men by,” Mr Adderley said.

Representing today’s Royal Navy, Lieutenant Antonio Valente from HMS Eaglet, the regional headquarters for Northern England and the Isle of Man in Liverpool, told those present: "It was a tragic loss. These men made the ultimate sacrifice and I am so proud of them."

Sandbach’s Mayor Councillor Kathryn Flavell praised all involved in restoring the badge and “its true prominence” after many years out of the limelight, and for creating a display which reflected “the great efforts of Sandbach Town during the war”.

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