MEMBERS of the Telegraphist Air Gunners Association have remembered lost colleagues at a moving 65th anniversary service.
More than 100 of the remaining servicemen – known as TAGs – joined friends, family and serving navy officers at the Fleet Air Arm War Memorial in Lee-on-the-Solent yesterday.
They travelled from as far away as Scotland to remember the Royal Navy men who flew in the back of aircraft and communicated with the ships, using Morse Code, while defending the plane with its rear gun.
More than 3,000 TAGs were trained and flew in Fleet Air Arm aircraft from 1922 to 1950, but the association was formally disbanded last year as most surviving members are now in their 80s.
Former petty officer Arthur Wells, 87, travelled from Nottingham and laid a wreath during the memorial service.
He said: ‘This occasion becomes more poignant with each year that passes.
‘It has been a real privilege to know these people and manage to keep in touch for more than 60 years.
‘There are few associations which enjoy such a close relationship as we do – it really is like a family.
‘We look after one another and it is very sad to see our numbers shrinking every year.’
During the ceremony the names of 11 TAGs who died over the last year were read out. These were Ken Davies, Thomas Evans, Roy Gibbs, Dennis ‘Nobby’ Hall, Jimmy Hind, John McFarthing, Ron Porter, Jim Smart, Alf Snellgrove, Roland Spiller and Peter Taylor.
Afterwards lunch was served at HMS Collingwood, and 86-year-old Bill Jones, of Pagham in West Sussex, said even without the association, they will keep holding memorial services for as possible.
He said: ‘In the last 12 months we have lost the association’s secretary, treasurer and the editor of our magazine – so it would have been hard to continue.
‘We decided not to hand the running over to our younger honorary members, and opted to wind it up instead.
‘But the memorial services will continue for as long as we are willing to come.’
The service was conducted by the Rev Peter Sutton, Vicar of St Faith’s, Lee-on-the-Solent, who was assisted by the Rev Ralph Barber from HMS Sultan.
Val Sayer is the widow of association president Les Sayer, and organised Sunday’s gathering.
She said: ‘It was beautiful. So many people make such an effort to come here every year, it is always a wonderful gathering of old friends.
‘I feel honoured to be a part of it.’