National Memorial Arboretum
The Battle of the River Plate Memorial Service Saturday 9th April 2016
HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association
Saturday dawned dry with the prospect of some sun during the day as we set off for the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire. Major works at the centre didn’t disrupt plans too much. During the morning members and guests of the HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association started to arrive and by midday everybody was in place around The Battle of the River Plate Memorial; still looking splendid.
The sun came out.
Malcolm Collis welcomed everyone to the National Memorial Arboretum and in particular Ted Wicks, HMS Ajax and Jim London, HMS Exeter, two of the surviving six River Plate veterans along with Don Birrell from a later Ajax commission. Several families of other Plate veterans were present together with a good number of Frigate crew and members.
The Reverend Tim Flowers CF, Tamworth & Lichfield Methodist Circuit, Chaplin to 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment conducted the service. The gremlins with the music that occurred at the Dedication and Unveiling of the memorial on the same Saturday in 2014 returned but, undaunted, The Reverend led us in the Navy Hymn.
The Association’s Chairman, Peter Danks, delivered the apt Bible Reading, Psalm 107: verses 23-31, “Those who go down to the sea in ships…” followed by a moving address by The Reverend. Peter Danks read out the names of those members who had Crossed the Bar since our last reunion, seven Cruiser veterans, one associate member and two former Frigate Captains, Admiral Sir Peter Abbott and Rear Admiral John Mackenzie.
Glenys Beveridge, the bugler, played the Last Post as our Standard Bearer, Mike Fox, HMS Ajax Frigate dipped the Association’s Standard. The Exhortation was ably delivered by Ted Wicks with Jim London placing the wreath at the foot of the Memorial. After Reveille, a Prayer of Thanksgiving and Hymn, the Naval Prayer was said by all.
At the conclusion of the Blessing our photographer Cliff Hoppé continued with his duties before we made our way the NMA’s dining marquees where nearly 50 members and guests sat down to a splendid meal. Following Grace by the Reverend diners enjoyed the convivial company of each other and over coffee one of our members, Ben Harwood, grandson of Commodore, later Admiral, Henry Harwood, who had commanded Hunting Group G at the River Plate, stressed the importance of keeping the memories alive and the responsibilities that fall to members of the Association and younger generations.
Our Chairman wrapped up proceedings by thanking those present for their support and those who had organised the event. He made mention of the Association’s visit to the Town of Ajax in Ontario, Canada in August and our reunion being held at the Royal Beach Hotel in Portsmouth on 1st October. Full details will appear in the Association’s June Newsletter and on its website, www.hmsajax.org.
As we said our fond farewells and departed the rain started – excellent timing.