To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of her loss, his Worship the
Mayor of the Borough of Doncaster held a Civic Reception at the Mansion
House on 12 March 1993 and invited myself and as many of my old shipmates
as could be found. This was a very moving event as I had not seen the men
since we went our separate ways after the sinking.
Before the reception a short Service of Remembrance was held and as the men were all sitting waiting for the dignitaries to enter who should come in with the Mayor but our former First Lieutenant - Duncan Carson. We could hardly believe our eyes, the buzz went around "that's the Number One" - I had last seen him aboard the Sirius fifty years earlier. Automatically the men stiffened to attention - old habits die hard. The service was very touching, and when the Last Post was played there was not a dry eye in the place.
Afterwards, we had eats and a good tot of rum was dutifully issued - this livened the lads up again and we were soon laughing and joking about the old ship and our various runs ashore. I shall be ever grateful to His Worship the Mayor for organising that event as I am sure that we shall not all get together again.
The crew pose before the reception. Top row L to R are Duncan Carson,
Ron Rawlings, Eric Stone, John Spicer. Middle row L to R are Arthur Sherrington,
Jack Keen, myself, Bill Pitcher, Jack Dunn. Bottom row L to R are Jack Hall,
Tom King, His Worship the Mayor of Doncaster Councillor C W Verrill, Albert
Tait, George Gill and H Twigg.
Old shipmates together again after fifty years. Left to right are Tom
King, myself, George Gill, 'Spegal' Spicer and Ron Rawlings.
That evening I stayed with Tom King and his dear wife Joyce. We spent the evening reminiscing about the Andrew, but as the time of the sinking approached my thoughts turned back fifty years to 'Tug' Wilson, Harry Johnson, Vic Love, PO Dann and all of the lads. I could see it all again - just as it happened.
On 17 June 1995 Gillingham borough council decided to hold a parade (entitled The Last Great Parade) to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the ending of the Second World War and chose the date to coincide with a visit of the frigate HMS Chatham. Accordingly those associated with HMS Lightning were invited to take part in the parade with other Chatham ship's companies and related organisations.
With the passing of time I have become unable to walk more than a few paces and cannot go out in cold weather as it affects my breathing, and so I worried for a long time beforehand as to whether I would be able to attend. Having contacted all of my old shipmates sadly most were in a similar state to me and could not contemplate the journey. But, after a bit of persuading, my old messmate Tom Taylor travelled all of the way down from near Newcastle. I was overjoyed to see him again after over fifty years. George Merrion, Spegal Spicer and David Drew were thankfully also able to come and take part. PO Arthur Ferguson's widow and son Malcolm also joined us as did Toni Smith, widow of John Smith. And so on a warm Sunday morning the little contingent from HMS Lightning met once again outside Nelson block in the former Naval Base at Chatham. Memories flooded back for us all, and it took a while for us to gather our composure.
We formed up behind our own band of The Prince of Wales Light Infantry, and when asked by the RSM what pace we would like to march the universal replay was "as slow as possible". His reply was "You should feel sorry for the bunch in front of you - they've got the Ghurkas!" As the parade began to move off, and the band struck up, a lump came to my throat and I am sure that we all felt the same. I was very proud to be representing the old ship, and those shipmates who never left her in the waters of the Mediterranean. Here I am with my old shipmates at Chatham again - Tom Taylor, Spiegel Spicer, Arthur Chubb, David Drew and my two grandsons Matthew and Daniel.
Spegal elected to push me in my chair, I think he needed something to
hold on to - what a pair of silly old s**s we must have looked to the cheering
As we passed the saluting dais David Drew gave the command "HMS Lightning - eyes right" and the intervening years slipped away, we were on parade again on a Sunday morning in Chatham Barracks. The memories of our lost shipmates were still marching with us.
Here are few photos of the Chatham War Memorial, with the names of most of the lads who were lost, including my mate Harry Johnson.