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I would like to thank the many people who have written to me to say how sorry they are to hear of Percy's poor health. He has asked me to circulate the following letter:
After it was announced in the last newsletter that I had given up the chairmanship of the Association because of ill health I received a number of sympathetic letters from members. Unfortunately I was too unwell at the lime to reply to them. I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to thank all those who wrote for their kind wishes and thoughts.
I was able to attend the dinner and thank many of those there. I am still "under the weather" but hope that my condition may improve with treatment, sufficient to allow me to meet everyone at the next dinner. Yours sincerely,
We had a very successful Reunion dinner with 19 survivors present and a total attendance of 63. Our President, the Earl of Gainsborough, graced us by his presence and we were also honoured to have Lady Rosemary Griffin with us. Lord Barham spoke of the great work Percy Cullum and Len Homer have done for the Association.
He made a presentation to Percy to thank him for his 40 years as its Chairman and gave a bouquet to Phyllis for her unfailing support. Percy thanked Lord Barham and said what a pleasure it had been to see so many present. Lady Griffin spoke of her husband's death 7 months before and said she was so pleased that members of the Association had attended services for him at Bosham and St Martins-in-the-Fields. Percy Cullum was then asked to present CPO Bob Woodgate of the Sea Cadet Corps with a second bar to his Cadet Forces Medal.
This medal is awarded by authority of the Queen to those uniformed instructors of the Cadet Corps who complete 12 years meritorious service. A bar is awarded for every eight years meritorious service thereafter.
His medal was awarded in 1980 and his first bar was presented to him by the late Admiral Sir Anthony Griffin at the Association's reunion dinner in 1988. It is always the request of the Captain of the Sea Cadet Corps that the medal or bar is presented at a suitable occasion and Bob could think of none better for the presentation of his second bar than this year's annual dinner, the 25th one he has attended.
It was proposed and carried that I should be elected as the chairman of the Association. Sidney Petherbridge was proposed and elected as its treasurer and Michael Stratton- Brown as its secretary. Ted Sibley volunteered to continue as a committee member.
Sadly our annual letter of loyal greetings to the Queen was late being sent off and her reply was only received shortly after the dinner. Sidney Petherbridge read out a list of those who had asked to be remembered. He thanked Peter Yuile for his marvelous donation to which everyone concured. Pincher Martin also wished t&thank the kind person who had given him a free dinner. Many thanks are also due to all those others who have very kindly made donations when returning their attendance chits. The Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Very ReVd Dr. Wesley Carr has kindly agreed to our next remembrance and wreath laying service being held on Saturday 22 November 1997.
As usual those attending the service should arrive at the West door and gather in the waiting area of the north aisle of the nave between 2.30 and 2.40 pm. To enable staff to identify members of the Association, medals should be worn and those hai'ing badges should wear them. Abbey staff will then direct members to the choir or the transcepts for evensong. This will be followed by our remembrance service around the nave altar.
If you would like to lay the wreath please let me know. The book of remembrance will be open after the service. As the Abbey staff wish to have some idea of the numbers attending please would you complete and return the attached slip.
We shall again ask the Union Jack Club if we can meet there after the service. For security purposes they need a nominal list so please print the names of all your guests on the slip.
John Cross spent most of July as the only passenger aboard "Kairo", a container ship making a round trip from Felixstowe to Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Tunis, Mersom, Dikaila, Alex, Beirut. Tartous, Izmir, Salerno, and Felixstowe. The voyage was absolutely wonderful. All the officers were German and although John was warned beforehand not to mention the war they did.
He asked the Captain how near the ship would get to 32-34N 26-24E where HMS BARHAM was sunk to be told within 5 miles. But he then said he would take John to the spot. When they were near the Captain switched off the computer and asked John to take the helm to the position. He jumped at it with the Captain keeping an eye on him. They arrived at 4.30 am and went down to the upper deck. There he was very moved to find the whole ships company assembled for a short service organised by the Captain.
The Captain said a prayer for all those who had perished, one for for all the survivors and then a short prayer for U331, its Captain and crew. John dropped a pair of Barham cuff links, a Royal Marine cap badge and a sailors Barham cap Tally over the side. The Captain took John back to the bridge, sounded the ship's siren 6 times and showed him the sonar. There on the screen were two bleeps; either two ships had been sunk in this position which was thought to be unlikely or HMS BARHAM had broken in two.
One half, perhaps more watertight, could have descended more slowly, drifting the 114 mile the echos were apart. John was very moved to be right over her after all these years.
Cynthia Scofield, whose father A/SPO Robert S Craig was lost when the ship sank, has written to say that her mother died on 12 May. Among her effects she has found a print of a painting of the ship. It was painted by Leslie Kent and depicts her leaving Crete in 1941.
If anyone would like a copy I will ask her if she could have it photocopied.
One of our Royal Marine survivors, Derek Cutting who went to live in Australia has been in England during the summer. He got in touch with Percy Cullum, who in turn put him in touch with the other RM survivors, Dave Ritchie, Alf Smith and John Cross.
At the time of going to press Percy is hoping to see Derek before he returns to Australia. Harry Wickens, who has attended the Abbey service, has written to ask if anybody knew his brother Stoker William (Bill) Wickens who died when the ship sank. Those who served Britain in the Armed Forces in South Africa in WWI formed an association in 1927 called the "Memorable Order of Tin Hats", and those who served in WWII also became members.
All members proudly wear a miniature "tin hat" in their buttonholes as a sign of their membership. The Secretary of the "Pillbox Shellhole" in Richmond, Natal has written to say that they are proud to have two of our survivors, Eric Mundy and Fletcher Evans among their members. Both, he said, enjoy good health.
Captain Terence Herrick who was the Commanding Officer of HMS HOTSPUR when she picked up our survivors, has written a book of his life in the Royal Navy entitled "Into the Blue".
The book costs £14 and can be obtained from Parapress Ltd., 12 Dene Way, Speldhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 ONX. Please mention HMS BARHAM Survivors Association when ordering.
It is with sadness that I have to list those that have died since the last news letter: Brian Lister died in April. He was a great supporter of the Association and helped us when he was President of the CPO & P0's mess in HMS PRESIDENT where our reunion dinners were held. He attended many of our memorial services in Westminster Abbey. Mrs Vera Archer, an associate member, who attended the memorial services has died.
Vera lost her brother Ord. Sig. Alec Alexander when the ship was sunk. Her husband John wishes to continue the association. Stan Mead who left the ship as an LSA in 1940 has just died. He lived in Southampton
| last updated:
13 July 2013