17 November 2011
In a touching ceremony, thirteen Royal Naval heroes who perished on their return home from D-Day have been remembered with a the laying of wreaths at sea over the site of their final resting place just four miles from their home port of Portsmouth.
Families had waited more than 67 years to discover what had happened to their loved ones and to be given the opportunity to pay their final respects. A young RN sailor piped the 'Still' and a silence was observed for the officers and men of Landing Craft Tank LCT 427. Wreaths were laid on the water over the shipwreck 30m (100ft) below.
In the early hours of 7 June 1944, His Majesty's Landing Craft Tank LCT 427 was returning home with a flotilla of other craft when, in the darkness, she was involved in a collision with a large battleship and sank with the loss of all hands. With so much going on at the time the tragic accident went unreported and LCT 427 was recorded as ‘missing’ along with her crew. The families of the crew were not aware of what had happened and assumed their loved ones had been lost in Normandy when they failed to return home.
Only one of the crew, Able Seaman Kenneth Sumner, aged 22, was recovered from the water but he died two days later. His fiancée, Margaret Emmett Hunter from Wickham, Hampshire, was one of those attending the service along with the families of another five of the crew.
Margaret, now 87, was only 19 when she became engaged to the Kenneth Sumner, a handsome young sailor from Wilmslow. Clutching photographs and newspaper clippings she said, “Kenneth loved dancing and was a fun, kind-hearted man. We were engaged in the November of 1943 and I last saw Kenneth in February of 1944. In June 1944, I heard in a letter from his father that he had been killed. I was devastated. I never really got a chance to say goodbye and did not know what had happened until recently. ”Margaret was relieved to finally know what had happened and for the opportunity to visit the place where LCT 427 had come to rest. “I never forgot about Kenneth. It's been good to come here today and finally say goodbye. It leaves me so sad to think of all those lives lost.”
D-Day veteran Paul Butler, 85, from Chipping Norton was a young midshipman in the Royal Navy onboard LCT 454, one of the other craft returning with LCT 427 from the D-Day beaches that night. He believes he signalled the ill-fated landing craft to warn of oncoming danger but cannot be certain. He said, “I saw the silhouette of a large ship coming towards us. I took evasive action to avoid being hit. It has long played on my mind whether there was something more that I could have done that night. I am very honoured to be able to pay my last respects to the crew of LCT427 that awful night.” Paul was honoured to be able to give the reading as a mark of his respect for his lost comrades.
Gladys Ingle, 85, travelled with her family from Sheffield to the Solent to pay her respects to elder brother Hallam Carr. She described the moment when she tossed the wreath onto the water. “It's so sad to think that they were so close to home. At last I have visited the place where Hallam was lost and said goodbye.”
Family members attending were related to the following crew members:
Hallam CARR, Eric FIELDS, David SPILLANE, Kenneth SUMNER, Joseph 'Bill' WHITFIELD, Alfred GIRARD, Frank FREEMAN