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Bulwark honours British war dead in Corfu

L/Cpl Crossley honours a fellow Royal Marine

12/11/2012

Sailors from the nation’s flagship honoured 29 British dead – most of them Royal Navy and Royal Marines – when HMS Bulwark visited Corfu. The British Cemetery on the island is the last resting place of personnel from both world wars, plus a dozen sailors killed when the ships hit mines in 1946 in the infamous Corfu Channel incident.

These men were some of the first British casualties of the Cold War and their story reminds us of the need in an uncertain world to be ready to follow their example of courageous service at sea as well as on the land
Rev Dave Roisseter, HMS Bulwark

ROYAL Marines bugler L/Cpl Nathan Crossley of HMS Bulwark places a small cross on the grave of a fellow member of the Corps, Cpl George McKenna, killed in the Adriatic 68 years ago this autumn.

The 25-year-old corporal is one of 29 British servicemen at peace in the British Cemetery in Corfu town on the island of the same name.

With the nation’s flagship visiting the Greek island ahead of exercises with the Albanians in the Adriatic, a group from the ship, led by the Commander United Kingdom Task Group, Commodore Paddy McAlpine, paid their respects during a memorial service.

Dead from the 20th Century’s two terrible conflagrations, mostly WW2, are laid to rest in the graveyard, plus a dozen of the 44 men killed in an infamous post-war tragedy: the Corfu Channel incident.

Illegally-laid mines crippled two British warships as the Royal Navy sought to assert freedom of passage on the high seas in waters between Albania and the Greek island of Corfu in October 1946.

As they did, HM destroyers Volage and Saumarez struck mines; the entire bow of Volage was blown off, taking eight men to a watery grave as it sheared off.

Twelve of the dead were subsequently buried in the British Cemetery, where a memorial to all those lost also stands.

Nearly 70 years later, prayers were led by Bulwark’s chaplain Reverend Dave Roissetter, for all members of the Armed Forces who are commemorated in the cemetery.

Following the last post, sounded by L/Cpl Crossley Royal Marines, a minute’s silence was observed after which Commodore McAlpine laid a wreath at the Corfu Channel memorial.

It is important for us to pause and reflect on the courage and sacrifice of our fellow service personnel and to keep their memory alive.

These men were some of the first British casualties of the Cold War and their story reminds us of the need in an uncertain world to be ready to follow their example of courageous service at sea as well as on the land.”

Bulwark’s CO Capt Andrew Burns added: “The ship’s visit to Corfu has presented an opportunity to commemorate our fallen at this time of remembrance.

It is particularly appropriate that it should be an amphibious ship doing so, given the historic links between Corfu and the island’s World War 2 liberators, the Royal Marines.”     

Following her visit to Corfu, Bulwark has sailed north to take part in Exercise Albanian Lion with the host nation before further duties in the Mediterranean as part of the Cougar 12 deployment by the nation’s Response Force Task Group.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Joel Rouse, HMS Bulwark 

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