Brocklesby crew brave autumn rain to honour wartime forebears

In driving autumn rain, a small detachment of sailors from HMS Brocklesby help the people of Lowestoft remember the crews of some of the Navy’s smallest craft.

The Suffolk town was the hub of operations by the Royal Naval Patrol Service in WW2 – the umbrella headquarters for some 6,000 vessels from trawlers and minesweepers down to whalers, drifters and motor launches.

Sparrows Nest Gardens served as the HQ – HMS Europa – now home to a memorial museum to the 70,000 men and women and focal point for an annual service of remembrance.

Thousands of merchant sailors, fishermen especially, were recruited for minehunting/sweeping and patrol duties, either in converted trawlers or craft specially built for the mission.

More than 250 RNPS vessels were lost between 1939 and 1945, taking over 15,000 souls down with them.

Six able seamen, one petty officer and HMS Brocklesby’s gunnery officer Lt Dan Buttar headed to England’s easternmost town to provide a Guard of Honour for the ceremony.

They were joined by a small number of RNPS survivors, descendants and relatives, as well as representatives from the local cadet groups and the public, to remember those who have passed and their vital work during the war.

They served in all theatres of the war, braving extremely hostile conditions with little in the way of protection to ensure that sea lanes were kept open and convoys made it to their destinations, so we were happy to provide a ceremonial guard for both the service and the opening of a new lift at the museum

Lt Dan Buttar

Lt Buttar said he and his shipmates were struck by the scale of sacrifice made by their wartime forebears.

“They served in all theatres of the war, braving extremely hostile conditions with little in the way of protection to ensure that sea lanes were kept open and convoys made it to their destinations, so we were happy to provide a ceremonial guard for both the service and the opening of a new lift at the museum,” he said.

AB ‘Fitz’ Alleyne added: “It was good to be involved in a piece of our Navy’s modern history. We also got the opportunity to learn about a part of our history that we didn’t know much about.”

He and his shipmates were most recently in the Gulf for a seven-and-a-half-month stint aboard HMS Middleton as Crew 2 2nd MCM Squadron. Back in the UK, they’re assigned to Brocklesby which is currently in BAE’s cavernous shed in Portsmouth Naval Base undergoing a massive overhaul.

The crew resume training in the new year ready to take the 34-year-old Hunt-class ship back to sea in the spring.