Bob Davies writes:
The short but important ceremony to raise the new Union Flag on the mast situated at the front of the former Officers’ Mess in the South Barracks housing estate, took place at 1100hrs on 31 March 2019, the first day of British Summer Time (BST). Bob, Peter Hall and John Elms carried out the salute, as former Royal Navy members, Devrow Jennings and John Hardy, hoisted the flag to the top. A group of residents and guests gave us a round of applause on completion.
When a wreath was spotted fixed to the gate leading to the former RM Rifle Range in Kingsdown, Bill Butler of the Royal Marines Heritage Trail (RMHT) made enquires. He uncovered a largely forgotten incident that happened there in 1918. On 1 April that year, four members of the Royal Marines Artillery (RMA) were killed instantly and many more seriously injured, one of whom died of his wounds a few days later, when a round exploded in the barrel of a Stokes Mortar whilst live firing was taking place during training for the forthcoming Zeebrugge Raid on the 23rd. This incident will never be allowed to be forgotten again. On 1 April 2019, the 101st Anniversary of the tragic event, a Service of Remembrance was held beside the gate at 1030hrs. The Reverend John Lines MBE led the service with the Branch Standard paraded by ‘Dusty’ Miller. Bob read the Corps Prayer; the Exaltation was given by John Elms, and the Kohima Epitaph by our President Col David Storrie OBE. Mike Scurfield sounded the bugle calls and wreaths were laid, with Bob fixing a wooden cross with the basic details to the gate, which can be viewed on our website. It has been proposed that funds be raised for a permanent memorial and that it will also be added as part of the RMHT. Our fallen will always be remembered.
On the afternoon of Sunday 14 April 2019, Bryan ‘Timber’ Wood, a former RM carpenter, presented to our Chairman Paul ‘Riggo’ Richardson a new barrel for use in the club for the drawing of raffle tickets. Many thanks ‘Chippy’, a very nice piece of work.
The service to mark the 101st Anniversary of the WW1 Raid on Zeebrugge in Belgium on St George’s Day in 1918 took place as always at St James’ Cemetery in Dover, where so many RMLI and RN personnel who lost their lives that day are buried. The service takes place close to the headstones and the Cross of Sacrifice. Dusty paraded our Standard alongside thirteen other Regimental and Association Standards, and Bob laid a wreath on behalf of our Branch President. Ben Stones was also in attendance. A large contingent of civic dignitaries and military representatives from Belgium were present, as they are every year. Representing Dover were our MP Charlie Elphicke and the town Mayor, also Deal town Mayor Cllr Nick Tomaszewski were amongst the many other local dignitaries. Representing the Royal Navy were three members of HMS Kent, who had travelled up from Portsmouth where their ship is docked. Two members of The Rifles sounded the bugle calls. They were good, but I can never understand why we do not have RM Buglers for this important memorial service.
On completion of this, a parade and another short service was then held outside Dover Town Hall where ‘Eight Bells’ were sounded on the Zeebrugge Bell, which was a gift from the people of Zeebrugge as a memorial to those lost, and which was originally located at the end of the Mole.
On the evening of 25 April 2019 a St George and Ladies Dinner Night was held in the club. Thirty-nine members and guests enjoyed another fine three-course meal, followed by cheese, biscuits and coffee, which was prepared by our stewardess Sue and served by her lovely band of ladies. Jim Coyle gave Grace. The toasts were, The Ladies, given by John Kirtley MBE, The Royal Marines by Helen Moor and The Queen by our President Col Storrie OBE. Our Guest of Honour was Cllr Derek Murphy who gave an interesting and amusing talk about his career, which included his efforts in getting the stone Globe & Laurel, which came from the side of the main recruit accommodation block in the old Depot, moved to the front of a local school alongside RM history information panels.
Lastly, we report the loss of one of our social members. Neil Robert Parks passed away on 28 February 2019 aged just 54, after a long illness. Neil was the son of Branch member Alastair and we send our condolences to him, Betty and all the family.