MOURNERS are being called to honour the life of a millionaire car parking tycoon whose £25m donation saved one of the Royal Navy’s most historic warships.
Sir Donald Gosling, who secured the future of HMS Victory with a huge charitable donation in 2012, was renowned in naval circles for his love of the Senior Service.
But the entrepreneur – who made his millions as the chairman of National Car Parks and whose yacht was seen more at Gunwharf Quays – died last month, aged 90.
Now the Royal Navy is inviting serving sailors and veterans to a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey to honour his contribution to the Senior Service.
Dr Caroline Williams, chairman of the board of The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) – which tends to Victory – said: ‘His amazingly generous support of HMS Victory was a game changer for the museum.’
Sir Donald had been a former officer in the navy before retiring and becoming a businessman.
As well as backing HMS Victory, Sir Donald was also a keen supporter of the wider naval family.
He donated millions toward supporting ships at sea, kitting out mess decks and paying for adventurous training opportunities around the world.
Rear Admiral Terry Loughran, president of the HMS Ark Royal Association, said Sir Donald had been a huge character in the navy.
He said: ‘”Sir Don” as he was known to every man in the Royal Navy, served in HMS Leander as a Leading Hand in 1946 at the time of the Corfu incident when the accompanying destroyers Saumarez and Volage struck mines illegally laid in the channel between Corfu and Albania.
‘This incident shaped his love of the service and respect for sailors, whose sacrifice and conditions he never forgot on his way to his appointment by Her Majesty to the honorary position of Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom.
‘I was fortunate to have been one of the late Ark Royal captains at that time and came to know him well, and he epitomised Kipling’s “if you can walk with kings, yet not lose the common touch”.‘
His funeral took place at the Fleet Air Arm memorial church, St Bartholomew’s, in Yeovilton, but was a small, private family affair.
The memorial service at Westminster at midday on Wednesday, December 11 will allow the wider Royal Navy, veterans and friends of Sir Donald to pay their respects.
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