THE head of the Royal Navy has paid tribute to 40 men killed in a disastrous wartime mission to attack the German fleet in the English Channel.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope and Portsmouth-based frigate HMS Kent attended the unveiling of a new memorial in Dover to remember the Channel Dash incident.
Just six Swordfish planes from Lee-on-the-Solent, as well as six destroyers and motor torpedo boats were scrambled for a suicide mission on the night of February 12, 1942.
They were sent to attack Adolf Hitler’s largest ever battle fleet and 250 Nazi aircraft which had surprised British commanders by making a break from cover just miles off the Kent coast.
Within an hour, 13 of the airmen were dead – including Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde, their squadron leader at HMS Daedalus. Twenty-four sailors also died after HMS Worcester was heavily bombed.
Admiral Stanhope said the new £33,000 memorial ‘symbolises and celebrates many fine qualities of human endeavour, of duty, but also of service and loyalty.’
He added: ‘It stands too as a witness of courage, leadership and professionalism.’