Remembrance service for centenary of HMS Bulwark explosion

TRIBUTE Royal Marines buglers at the service   'Picture: Bob Hind
TRIBUTE Royal Marines buglers at the service 'Picture: Bob Hind
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A SERVICE to remember 700 people who lost their lives on HMS Bulwark 100 years ago was held at the weekend.

The Portsmouth-based ship exploded on November 26, 1914, killing hundreds of men, including 150 from Portsmouth.

A number of families from the city were present at the service at the Woodland Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, on Saturday.

It is the location in which around 70 of the men’s bodies were buried – the only ones to have been recovered.

Bob Hind, who writes a nostalgia column in The News’ Weekend magazine on Saturdays, attended the service at the weekend.

He said: ‘It was a battleship that blew up – 700 men were on her. I went to the memorial service for the centenary.

‘Everyone on board was a Portsmouth divisional sailor. There were 150 from what was then a town.

‘I took a lot of photos of the gravestones and I met a few people from Portsmouth there.

‘There were some other people from Portsmouth and more than 100 people in attendance.

‘I met one man there who is a retired Royal Marine and his grandfather was a commander on the ship.

‘I also met another lieutenant who is on the present day HMS Bulwark who wanted to pay his respects to the people who died 100 years ago.

‘At the ceremony, there were prayers and hymns sung.

‘One of the hymns sung was the Eternal Father, Strong to Save, the naval hymn. The First Post was played by Royal Marines buglers.

‘We all laid poppies and wreaths to commemorate those who have died and sang the National Anthem.’

Through his nostalgia column Bob says he has managed to make contact with people who are related to some of the dead. ‘I have written about this in my past four columns. I was trying to find readers with associations to them,’ he said.

‘I am now going to write a book with their stories in.’

Modern day ship pays tribute to those killed

WHILE at sea in the Mediterranean, sailors and marines in the modern day HMS Bulwark paused to commemorate the tragic loss of the fifth Bulwark destroyed in an explosion one hundred years ago.

On the morning of November 26, 1914 while moored on the river Medway at Sheerness, the 15,000 ton first-class armoured battleship was blown apart by a massive explosion.

From a ship’s company of 750, 741 men lost their lives in what was the second most catastrophic accidental explosion recorded in the history of the United Kingdom.

At a ceremony on the flight deck of the current HMS Bulwark, officers, sailors and Royal Marines laid a wreath to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the naval service.

The commanding officer of the current HMS Bulwark and Fleet Flagship, Captain Dean Bassett, said: ‘As we pause today on our deployment we remember those who gave their lives in this tragic accident remaining ever mindful of the dangers of operations at sea.’

Meanwhile, John Hatchard, 68, from Titchfield, travelled to Kent to visit the cemetery where those who died in the tragedy are buried.

Mr Hatchard’s grandfather William Hatchard was a stoker on board Bulwark in 1914 and was killed in the blast.

He said: ‘It was a very emotional journey.

‘My father was only five when his dad died.

‘It was such a big loss and it was only just the beginning of the war.’

A group of descendants of those on board visited the wreck site and laid wreaths.