Memorial will allow men of Affray to be remembered

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Slowly, 86-year-old Mary Henry rose up from her wheelchair and walked to the special stone and plaque draped in the White Ensign.

Assisted by her son, David, she was determined to unveil the memorial to HMS Affray that has deep personal significance for her.

Her late husband, Lieutenant Derek James Foster, was among 71 sailors and four Royal Marines who perished in 1951 after their submarine submerged south of the Isle of Wight and never resurfaced.

Yesterday, 62 long years later, Ms Henry from Emsworth and other loved ones of those lost in the Affray tragedy had the chance to honour them with a special memorial erected in Gosport.

It was from the town’s HMS Dolphin base that Affray sailed for a training exercise – and never came back.

She was eventually found sunk with the loss of all hands at Hurd Deep off the coast of Alderney in the Channel Islands,

The Affray tragedy hit the Portsmouth area hard.

Ms Henry recalled poignantly: ‘My son was sitting on my knee listening to Listen With Mother when they stopped the programme to say one of our submarines was missing.

‘My husband had told me the weekend before he went away ‘’she’s unseaworthy, I don’t want to go’’.

‘It was a terrible day for everyone.’

Though the memorial symbolises sadness, it’s what relatives have been waiting for.

Finally, they’ve been able to have some sort of closure – and now they have somewhere that commemorates their loved ones in, fittingly, the spiritual home of the submarine service.

But this is not just about those who have suffered a very personal loss.

We believe it is vitally important that we all remember those who have lost their lives in the service of their country.

Memorials such as the one to the men of the Affray allow us to do just that.

This way, they are not just tragic footnotes in history, but will continue to be remembered.