Portsmouth submariners travel to America and pay tribute to crew

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THEY were the first submarine crew to defeat an enemy warship.

Now the men who served on board the H.L. Hunley during the American Civil War have been honoured by the Portsmouth Submariners Association.

Four members of the association went to Charleston, South Carolina last month to lay a poppy wreath on the graves of the crew.

The crew of eight died when the H.L Hunley mysteriously sank moments after she sank enemy warship USS Housatonic near South Carolina harbour in 1864.

After laying the wreath the association saluted and held a minute’s silence for the fallen heroes, who were given a state funeral and buried in 2004 after the H.L Hunley was lifted up from the seabed four years earlier.

The association has been sending out a wreath to the grave site each year after its chairman Les Hanks attended the funeral while he was on holiday out there.

Paul Jevons, secretary of the Portsmouth Submariners Association, said: ‘This year we wanted to take out a wreath personally.

‘When I suggested the idea to Les he was really keen for us to go.

‘It was all about us going out and showing our respects to our fallen submariners across the other side of the globe.

‘The H.L. Hunley marked the beginning of the submarine to service.

‘Plus it’s remarkable to think that it was the first ever submarine to sink an enemy warship.’

A further 13 people lost their lives on board the H.L. Hunley after she sank during sea trials before battling with the USS Housatonic.

Paul, 52, a former Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician, said: ‘When we laid the wreath it was an emotional moment.

‘All I could think about was the loss of life. The Hunley was a tiny submarine so I can’t imagine what the conditions would have been like.’

As part of the association’s week-long stay in Houston they attended a service in memory to the fallen crew and visited the Hunley Conservation Lab, which houses the remains of the vessel.

The Portsmouth representatives also met American Second World War veterans.

Portsmouth Submariners Association chairman Les Hanks, 88, said: ‘The Hunley signalled the beginning of submarine warfare.

‘It’s so important that the brave men who lost their lives are recognised and remembered for years to come.’