HMS King Alfred supports Remembrance across Hampshire and beyond

Remembrance Day saw teams from HMS King Alfred commemorating the fallen across Hampshire, at the Albert Hall and in Belgium in memory of the WWI Royal Naval Division.

For this year’s Remembrance Day, teams from HMS King Alfred supported Remembrance events across our areas of Southern England as well as a making a study tour to the WWI battlefields to commemorate and better understand the Western Front experience of our WWI predecessors of the Royal Naval Division.

The WWI Royal Naval Division (made up of Royal Marines & Royal Naval Reserve) was a unique formation assembled initially in 1914 to be rushed to fight at the defence of Antwerp. It went on to fight at Gallipoli, the Western Front and at the Zeebrugge Raid. The unit suffered over 49,000 casualties during the four years of war and saw some of the toughest fighting.

The study trip to Belgium is a chance for the unit to take some of our junior sailors to some of the most significant battlefield of WWI, study the military history, and pay our respects. Once across in Belgium the team changed into No.1 uniforms and as part of the Last Post ceremony we paraded at the Menin Gate and laid a wreath for the fallen.

The attlefield study covered the major sites, such as Varlet Farm for Passchendale as well as some of the smaller but hugely important sites such as the 1918 action at La Sucrerie where CPO Arthur Blore of the Royal Naval Division won the only bar awarded in WW1 to the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. For the junior officers and junior rates, each site offered a chance to practice their briefing skills as they presented their research to the group on the battle being studied.

For S/Lt Clive Bull of Gosport, this remembrance trip to Belgium had particular significance. His wife’s great grandfather, Pioneer Charles Fletcher of the Royal Engineers (also from Gosport) was killed on 8th October 1918, aged 43 and less than a month before the end of hostilities. This trip represented the first chance for his family to pay their respects at the grave.

Across Hampshire members of the unit aimed to provide a Naval Service presence at as many of their local services as possible, as well as supporting the remembrance commemorations at Portsmouth Guildhall.

At Southampton we were represented by Cdr Jones. As a Royal Naval Reserve officer who works in the civilian maritime industry, he is particularly aware of the sacrifices of both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy during WWI and WWII.

At Andover we were represented at the remembrance parade and service at St Mary’s Church by two of our most experienced medics, Surg Cdr Batham and Lt Ping. Both parade and service were extremely well attended and with what looks like a record number of people supporting the event. Members of the unit also supported the Remembrance ceremony at Stubbington and many other Remembrance events.

Standing out amongst these events was the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall.  There, AB Stuart Towler had the honour of being part of the party representing the Royal Naval Reserve. Despite being one of the unit’s more junior sailors, he has recently returned from deploying on the Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Tyne and transitioned seamlessly for seamanship to ceremonial work.

We would like to thank the Connaught Trust and the Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity for their assistance with the Battlefields Remembrance and Study Tour. That assistance allows us to prioritise our newest and most junior sailors and introduce them to an important part of Naval history.