At the end of a harrowing five-day Portsmouth court marital, Lt-Commander Peter Paget, RNR, 44-year-old commanding officer of the ill-fated minesweeper HMS Fittleton, was found guilty of one of four charges – and indicated he intended to appeal.
Immediately after his ordeal was over he made another appeal for support for the Fittleton Disaster Fund for dependants of the 12 sailors who died when the minesweeper collided with the frigate HMS Mermaid and capsized during a NATO exercise in the North Sea on September 20, 1976.
He was found guilty of negligently hazarding his ship by failing to reduce speed drastically, and then failing to alter away in small steps to extricate Fittleton from a dangerous position close alongside Mermaid.
He was cleared of two charges of negligently hazarding his ship on the approach to Mermaid prior to a heaving line transfer, and also of a charge of negligently losing his ship.
After the verdict was given Lt-Commander Paget broke in: ‘I hope that you will all support the continued existence of the Fittleton fund.
‘It is in aid of dependants of those who lost their lives.
‘I will continue to involve myself in the fund until it is finally closed.
‘The Royal Naval Reserve is and always will be an integral part of my life.’