Memorial service marks naval fliers lost at sea

HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

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MEMBERS of the Fleet Air Arm Association gathered to remember those who lost their lives at sea.

Both the Lee-on-the-Solent and Manchester branches went to the FAA memorial in Lee yesterday.

Fleet Air Arm veterans pay tribute to their fallen comrades during a service of remembrance held at Marine Parade West in Lee on the Solent. (left to right),  Arthur Gardner from Manchester, George Payne from Lee on the Solent, and Ken Tomlinson from Lee on the Solent.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (132447-8)

Fleet Air Arm veterans pay tribute to their fallen comrades during a service of remembrance held at Marine Parade West in Lee on the Solent. (left to right), Arthur Gardner from Manchester, George Payne from Lee on the Solent, and Ken Tomlinson from Lee on the Solent.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (132447-8)

Ken Tomlinson, 79, of Garden Court, in Portchester, is a member of the Lee-on-the-Solent branch.

He served from July 1952 to 1961 as a naval airman and aircraft handler, aboard HMS Glory, HMS Eagle and HMS Hermes.

The 11am service was organised by the Manchester branch and held at the memorial in Marine Parade West.

The memorial names almost 2,000 servicemen from the FAA who lost their lives at sea in the Second World War and have no marked graves.

Mr Tomlinson, who laid the wreath at the service, said: ‘It is a service of dedication to the Fleet Air Arm and all those who served on aircraft carriers and those who have no known graves.

‘It’s so important to these people who have been coming down for 15 years, to lay a wreath for their comrades.

‘They come every year to lay a wreath for those who gave their lives to the country.’

The Rev David Simpson, one of three chaplains from HMS Sultan, in Gosport, officiated at the service.

Standards from the HMS Ganges Association, Solent division of the FAA Association, Park Gate British Legion and Manchester FAA Association were at the service.

Former Leading Hand Arthur Gardner, 83, is from the Manchester branch.

The former air mechanic brought four members with him for the service.

Mr Gardner told The News he was grateful HMS Sultan provided a padre at the service each year.

He said: ‘It’s a tribute for those lost at sea with no known grave. Most of our members served in the Fleet Air Arm, as air mechanics and things like that.

‘Lee-on-the-Solent was HMS Daedalus, which was the main FAA barracks.

‘We used to bring a 48-seater coach down with us.

‘We’re all getting older and there’s sickness and people are not able to drive because of mobility problems.

‘Over the years the numbers have decreased, there’s a few of us still trying to keep it going.’

Mr Simpson led around a dozen veterans through the service, starting with The Naval Hymn, the ‘Passing Out’ prayer and The Naval Prayer.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Simpson said: ‘The contribution of former members of the Fleet Air Arm has made a critical difference to the life of our country in the post-war years.

‘We owe an eternal debt to them for what they have done for us.

‘The courage and bravery of them and the people we commemorate in the memorial is something that our society needs never forget.’

He added the commitment of veterans makes them lifelong members of the armed services.