WW1 battle inspires Duncan's rowers

Sailors from HMS Duncan were inspired by sacrifices on the Somme to raise more than £2,500 for veterans.

A six-strong team from the Portsmouth-based destroyer spent eight hours on rowing machines on behalf of the Royal British Legion.

With the annual poppy appeal hit by the pandemic, Duncan’s crew wanted to help plug the gap.

They fell upon the five-month battle of the Somme in 1916 – one of the darkest hours in British military history – and decided to row one kilometre for each day of the battle on the Western Front: 141 kilometres in all.

Two rowing machines were set up outside the HMS Nelson’s, a target board was erected with some milestones to reach, such as 49 (the number of Victoria Crosses awarded during the Battle of Somme) and 95 (the number of Falkland veterans’ deaths which can be attributed to suicide).

Surface Flotilla’s Commodore Tim Neild watched the first rowers – Duncan's Executive Warrant Officer Daniel Castle and Leading Physical Training Instructor Mathew James – dip their oars in the (virtual) water.

Row to Remember was a chance for the ship's company to come together through a physical challenge whilst helping raise funds for an amazing charity

LPT Mathew James, HMS Duncan

The rowers were regularly rotated to maintain a rapid pace – helped, on occasions, by passers-by who jumped on the spare machine to power past their target to cover 263 kilometres when the eight-hour challenge ended with Duncan’s CO Cdr Hugh Harris cheering the team over the line.

Aside from the rowers, other members of Duncan’s ship’s company grabbed buckets and poppies and set themselves up around the dockyard to fund raise in addition to a Just Giving page set up, collectively bringing in £2,548.

“Row to Remember was a chance for the ship's company to come together through a physical challenge whilst helping raise funds for an amazing charity,” said LPT James.

“Everyone gave their best effort and I am incredibly grateful for all the kind donations and support we received."

Lieutenant Danny Clarke, the destroyer’s deputy logistics officer, added: “The row did more than raise money for a very worthy cause, it brought us together as a team with a joint purpose, symbolising the team ethos on which the ship will thrive.”