SAILORS from HMS Charybdis and HMS Limbourne were commemorated yesterday at a service which saw more than 100 people attend.
Torpedoes sunk the ships in October 1943 leaving 504 servicemen dead, 21 of who were washed onto Guernsey shores and buried with full military honours at Le Foulon Cemetery by the German occupying forces.
A quarter of the 20,000 Guernsey wartime population attended the funeral, demonstrating loyalty to the Crown in defiance of the occupiers.
Usually military representatives plus the families and friends of the 107 survivors travel to attend the annual remembrance service, but could not this year for the first time in 77 years due to the pandemic.
Dean of Guernsey Tim Barker said: ‘It’s always a very moving service and it is a privilege to be able to take part in this.
‘It offers a chance to think about what life was like for people during the wartime, living under occupation, who demonstrated the spirit of Guernsey by coming out to the service to support fallen soldiers and the Crown.’
Wreath official Graham Williams said: ‘I am ex-Royal Navy and it’s important to keep it going. I used to come and watch over the wall with my sister as a boy. It’s a ceremony unique to Guernsey, of which not many are happening this year.’
St John Ambulance Brigade recovered the bodies and have attended the ceremony ever since.
Former Naval Association president Brian Salmon said: ‘I spent my whole working life at sea. I’ve got the hang of it a bit. I come to this memorial every year. Numbers have dwindled over the years but it’s still good to remember.’
A parade marched down Le Foulon creating a congregation of musicians, flag-bearers and representatives spanning the police, ambulance and firefighting services, sea cadets, the RNLI, Royal British Legion, clergymen of different sects, Charybdis and Limbourne Association members, and the Channel Island Occupation Society.
Accompanied by a military brass band, there was time for tranquil reflection before the service commenced.
Readings were taken from the Book of Wisdom before prayers, hymns and the benediction, extending remembrance to all those on active deployment today.
Wreaths were then laid solemnly with assistance from Cadet Browning, 13, with wreath layers removing their hats, saluting and bowing.
Charybdis Association member Anita Carey said: ‘Some of the sailors were only 16 or 17. For some it must have been their first shipping. The torpedoes struck in pitch black night during high winds. It must have been terrifying.
‘This year there are three remaining survivors, who are all in their 90s. Last year the survivors’ families came as the survivors had just been to a similar service in France.
‘Usually they come over for a weekend, where a wreath is laid at sea from the lifeboat before drinks at the Governor’s [House] and an evening event at La Villiette. They attend the parade at St John’s Church on the Sunday and have lunch. Of course this year they couldn’t come, nor could many of our other association members who mainly live in the UK or France. Hopefully next year it will happen and St John’s will be back in action.’