HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association


Latest News

Association Events Planned for 2016


At the October 2015 AGM those present discussed future events and, following much debate, decided upon the following three to be arranged for 2016.


Saturday 9th April 2016 – memorial service at the Battle of the River Plate memorial, National Memorial Arboretum probably with luncheon depending upon level of interest. Overnight accommodation could also be arranged.

Malcolm Collis is leading on this event


Tuesday 23rd August to Tuesday 30th August 2016 – The Town of Ajax have agreed to host an official visit from the Association to mark, to the day, the 40th Anniversary of the visit of the Frigate Ajax. Town events will take place on the Friday, Saturday & Sunday with other trips being organised by Debbie Steer for the other days.

Nigel Masters, Debbie Steer & Malcolm Collis are leading on this event.


Saturday 1st October 2016 – a change of venue, and day of week, for the 2016 reunion to the Royal Beach Hotel Portsmouth where we held the 2014 Anniversary luncheon. Accommodation for those who wish to stay over is being arranged.

Peter Danks is leading on this event.


Members on email will have received notification already for these events but on behalf of your Association please all of you let me know as soon as you can, even if tentative, whether you are able make any or all of these events and if accommodation is likely to be needed. We really do need an indication of the level of support, one way or the other, to allow us to plan for these events.

Malcolm Collis

New FAQs and information added to website


Information relating to The Battle of the River Plate and the 2014 commerorations can be found here and contains a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section

D-Day 72th Anniversary - June 6th 1944

We should not forget the part HMS Ajax and her crew played in the D-Day landings. She left the Clyde on 4th June and by the 6th she was off Gold Beach, Normandy coast, ready for the D-Day assault. Ajax was the first ship to open fire on D-Day and within eight minutes had destroyed her first target, a battery of 5.9 inch guns at Longues, at a range of 12,000 yards – she fired 114 six inch shells with direct hits through two of the 5.9 inch gun ports of the three guns. She returned to Portsmouth on the 9th.

One of our Association members, Richard Llewellyn, was featured in the BBC 1 series of programmes D-Day 70 Heroes Remembered in which he gives a wonderful account of his experiences on that day from the diary he kept. The programme, Episode 2, was screened on 3rd June at 9.15 a.m. and can be viewed through BBC iPlayer

2016 Memorial Service held at the NMA Saturday 9th April - report can be found HERE


A report on the latest trip to Ajax, Ontario August 2016 can be found HERE

Ambassador of Chile Presents Medals to Two HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association Members


On Friday 17th March 2017 His Excellency Rolando Drago visited Cambridge and presented medals to two Cambridge veterans for the part they played in the rescue operation in a devastating earthquake that hit the Chillan and Concepcion region of Chile on 24th January 1939.


The two, Frank Burton HMS Ajax aged 98 and Basil Trott HMS Exeter aged 97 were part of the Royal Navy’s South American Division commanded by Commodore, later Admiral, Henry Harwood, sailing up the coast of Chile. A run ashore in Valparaiso on the evening of 24th January was welcome but just before midnight tremors were felt, strong enough to spill some beer one said, but gave little indication of the County’s worst earthquake in its history that had devastated Chillan and Concepcion some 250 miles south.


Both ships were offered to aid the rescue operation and they set off south. At Talcahuano, the port of Concepcion, the sailors were met by a scene of total destruction; most buildings were razed and 30,000 dead. They set about clearing streets, pulling down unsafe buildings, rescuing those trapped and retrieving those who had perished and generally doing what they could, including ferrying survivors back up to Valparaiso.


Chile struck medals for the crew but these were never issued; the most likely reason being the War that broke out later meant the ships never returned to Chile. Many years later members of HMS Ajax and River Plate Veterans Association set about rectifying this omission and arranged for the medals to be sent to them for issuing to their members: some never got theirs.


The Association’s Archivist recently uncovered spare medals in the archives and set about establishing who had missed out - Frank & Basil. The Association wrote to the Chilean Embassy and to our delight the Ambassador offered to present the two medals, 78 years after the event. Two of our other surviving veterans had received theirs in the early 1990’s and one of them, Jim London HMS Exeter aged 98, was also present at the ceremony.


Over 40 gathered at the Brown’s Field Community Centre to witness this rather unique occasion. Two local MPs, family members of Basil and Frank including his 6 week old great granddaughter Eleanor; a good turn-out of Association members including one of our Cruiser veterans, Mike Turner. Our Chairman Peter Danks made the long journey up from near Portsmouth but the greatest distance travelled was by Associates Richard & Lorrie Cooke, all the way from Ajax, Ontario. There was also a good turn-out of the local Royal Naval Association.


A full report appeared in the June 2017 Newsletter.



{UPDATE - sadly Frank Crossed the Bar on 26th December 2018 and his funeral was held on 22nd January 2019 in Cambridge}


HMS Ajax Battle of the River Plate Veteran Frank Burton reached his one hundredth birthday on Tuesday 4th September 2018 and celebrated with a party at his Cambridge Care Home surrounded by family, care staff, friends and HMS Ajax and River Plate Veterans Association members including another River Plate veteran, Basil Trott (HMS Exeter) who will be 99 later this year.


Malcolm Collis of the HMS Ajax and River Plate Association presented Frank with an inscribed shield with HMS Ajax cruiser badge to mark this momentous occasion.