ROYAL Navy sailors from Fareham rallied to honour one of their own who sacrificed himself to defend his shipmates from a deadly aerial bombardment.
The close range section of gunners at HMS Collingwood travelled to the grave of Leading Seaman Jack Mantle at the Royal Navy Cemetery, in Portland.
Jack’s heroics are legendary among those who pass through Collingwood, which has a training area named after him as a tribute to his selfless act of valour on July 4, 1940.
The courageous gunner was posthumously awarded Britain’s highest medal for bravery, the Victoria Cross, for his actions defending HMS Foylebank.
He was in charge of the starboard pom-pom anti-aircraft guns when Foylebank was attacked by 26 Luftwaffe Stuka dive bombers.
Foylebank was pummelled by 22 bombs in a deadly air raid that lasted eight minutes, which eventually sunk the warship and claimed the lives of 176 sailors.
A Royal Navy spokeswoman said: ‘Early in the action Jack’s left leg was shattered by a bomb, but he stood fast at his gun and went on firing with hand-gear only, as the ship’s electric power had failed.
‘Almost at once he was wounded again. Between his bursts of fire, he had time to reflect on the grievous injuries of which he was soon to die, but his great courage bore him up till the end of the fight, when he fell by the gun he had so valiantly served.’
The modern-day team of sailors from Collingwood often tidy his burial plot.
On their latest trip a short service of remembrance was held, with wreaths laid and a one-minute silence marked.
The group later had a traditional pub lunch nearby followed by another toast to Jack.