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Collingwood sailor discovers Canadian namesake

26 September 2016
Recently an Electronic Warfare Instructor from HMS Collingwood made the journey to Ajax in Ontario, Canada, for a very special commemoration event.

Chief Petty Officer Lee Hayward travelled 3500 miles to Ajax from his home in Littlehampton to represent his late Grandfather, Stewart Hunter, and his contribution to The Battle of the River Plate, in which he served on the 7th HMS Ajax.

The event marked the 40th anniversary of the 8th HMS Ajax’s visit to the town and the 1976 Freedom of the City.

In attendance were members of the ship’s company for various memorial tributes, including a proud march through the town with medals on full display, which Lee was honoured to be a part of.

. I felt enormous pride and was so humbled to accept the street dedication of my Grandfather’s name.

Chief Petty Officer Lee Hayward

With Stewart passing away in 1987 unaware of his namesake, it was left to chance and his observant wife, Mary, to discover in 1988 the great honour which their family name held.

After Mary had read a newspaper article regarding the town of Ajax and the street naming tradition in which the towns roads were named after the men who had served on-board HMS Ajax during the battle of the River Plate, curiosity quickly led her to contact the Mayor of Ajax to enquire further as she was sure of Stewart’s involvement but had heard nothing about this.

After checking his service documents it was confirmed that Stewart Hunter had served in the Battle of the River Plate on HMS Ajax and that Hunter Drive was to be named in honour of him.

Lee has longed to visit Hunter Drive for many years and recently joined the HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association which led him to receive an invitation to the town of Ajax for all of the significant events that coincided with the street dedication.

The weekend began with the unveiling of a memorial wall at Harwood Point Gardens, adorned by the 4,500 names of the crew members of HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles.

The three ships all played a part in the victory of the Battle of the River Plate in the Second World War, with the town taking its name to honour the ship following the successful battle.

The celebration weekend also saw HMS Ajax veterans parade from the Town Hall to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 322, which was a re-enactment of the day 40 years prior and saw residents out in full force to line the streets and revel in the history of their town.

However, the most momentous part of the trip for Lee was ultimately the dedication of the street named after his Grandfather, Hunter Drive.

Lee said of the event, “My wife, Elizabeth, and I were blown away by the overall reception and friendliness of all the people we met in the town of Ajax.

“Overall the weekend and events which took place were beyond our expectations immensely. I felt enormous pride and was so humbled to accept the street dedication of my Grandfather’s name.

“It was really special to be able to say a few words in attendance of the Mayor, residents of Hunter Drive, and members of the Ajax and River Plate Association on behalf of my family whilst still serving in the Royal Navy.”

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