Warship crew pay respects to fallen sailors in Florida

SOLEMN Members of HMS Lancaster's ship's company at the graveside

SOLEMN Members of HMS Lancaster's ship's company at the graveside

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HALFWAY around the world in a cemetery plot for American sailors sit two graves unlike the others.

These white marble headstones belong to two Royal Navy sailors who were buried there in 1952.

Now, more than 60 years later, sailors on board Portsmouth-based HMS Lancaster have tracked down the graves to pay their respects.

Sub Lieutenant Donald Smith and Midshipman Paul Dewar were part of a consignment of young sailors due to attend a United Nations training programme in the USA.

But they died in a tragic road accident in November 1952 at Navy Air Station Milton Field, outside Pensacola in Florida.

With transatlantic flights in their infancy, it was decided to bury the pair in Key West, rather than repatriate them.

A man who once served with the two sailors, Sub Lt Michael Inkpen, is now the father-in-law of HMS Lancaster’s chief stoker, Neil Halsey.

When he heard the ship was visiting Key West, he asked Neil to seek out and tend to the graves of his fallen colleagues.

So last week, nine of HMS Lancaster’s crew sought out the graves, laid flowers, and held a small remembrance ceremony.

Neil said: ‘It was a great honour to represent my father-in-law Michael at the graves of his fellow shipmates.

‘I thank all members of HMS Lancaster’s ship’s company who assisted me in this task.’

Sub Lt Inkpen and his two colleagues were part of the initial 30 Royal Navy personnel who travelled across the Atlantic to take part in the training.

The idea for a United Nations combined training programme came about following heavy losses among naval air squadrons at the start of the Korean War in the 1950s.

Leading Seaman Chris Tounge was one of the nine who took part in the recent visit.

He said: ‘The grave visit was a great way to pay our respects to the families of our shipmates and others.

‘I feel in this day and age it’s important to keep traditions going and show the junior members of the Royal Navy what sacrifices our elders made for us.’

HMS Lancaster has spent the last two years in Portsmouth being refitted with a new flight deck and the latest version of the Seawolf missile defence system.

She is now on a deployment to the Caribbean and north Atlantic to stand by in readiness for hurricane season.

DEPLOYMENT CONTINUES WITH VISIT TO CAYMAN ISLANDS

SAILORS on board HMS Lancaster have continued their deployment with a visit to the Cayman Islands.

The Type 23 frigate has stopped off in Grand Cayman, the second British territory HMS Lancaster has visited as part of her six-month deployment to the north Atlantic and Caribbean. The aim of the visit was to provide reassurance and security to the Cayman Islands at the start of the core hurricane season.

Contingency plans have been discussed with local services and authorities, in case the frigate needs to return to the islands to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

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