Families back again to attend Charybdis memorial service

FOR the first time since 2019, family members of those who died or survived when HMS Charybdis and HMS Limbourne were sunk during the Second World War were able to attend the annual commemoration service in person.

The service was once again conducted at Le Foulon Cemetery and followed a procession of standards led by the Guernsey Boys’ Brigade Band from Elizabeth College.

Led by vice-dean the Rev. John Honour and with prayers said by Methodist Superintendent minister Howard Stringer, the service included the laying of wreaths by two Lt-Governor’s cadets, Madeleine Vaudin and Grace Bennalick, both 17, who acted on behalf of Lt General Richard Cripwell, who was away.

Also out of the island was Bailiff Richard McMahon and so a wreath was laid by Deputy Bailiff Jessica Rowland.

The service was attended by members of the Association of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Merchant Navy as well as representatives of the emergency services.

Among the congregation were several people whose relatives had been on board Charybdis, including Patricia Lufkin, whose father, William Dennis Simpson, was Petty Officer Wireman on board the Charybdis and lost his life in the attack. Accompanying her in laying a wreath on behalf of the seamen was Philip Burrows, whose uncle, Samuel Stoker, was just 18 when he died on the ship.

There were several representatives of the Charybdis Association present and for them the weekend had an extra purpose in that it saw the group’s official standard, a naval ensign, laid up at St John’s Church.

Former secretary Chris Cannon said that the association was wound up in 2019 but even so, family members of the sailors would continue to come to the island for the ceremony.

Mrs Lufkin said she had been visiting regularly over the last 20 years and planned to be back for the 80th anniversary next year and beyond.

‘I just like coming,’ she said.

‘It’s just nice to be back in Guernsey, I love it. Even if nobody else comes I’ll keep coming.’

The families also took part in a short private ceremony on board the St Peter Port lifeboat for a wreath to be laid at sea.

More than 500 sailors died when a German U-boat sank HMS Limbourne and Charybdis in October 1943.

The bodies of 21 men were recovered by the St John Ambulance Brigade after they washed up on the island’s shores.

The then-Bailiff and the vicar of St John’s Church saw to it that they were afforded a full military funeral, which thousands of islanders attended in defiance of German orders.

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