Portsmouth Cathedral hosts 'moving' and 'necessary' memorial for members of The Association of Royal Yachtsmen who have died since 2020
MORE than 200 former crew members of Royal Yacht Britannia and their families attended a memorial service at Portsmouth Cathedral for fellow crew who have ‘crossed the bar’ – but suffered restricted funerals during the pandemic.
Portsmouth Cathedral hosted the special service on Saturday morning on behalf of The Association of Royal Yachtsmen (ARY), which brings together crew who served aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia before she was decommissioned in 1997.
The service was held to honour 41 former crew members who died since the start of 2020, meaning the vast majority faced funerals with limited attendees due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Among those honoured were the association’s founder, Albert 'Dixie' Deane MBE, and keen yachtsman Prince Philip.
With readings of the Naval Prayer and Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Crossing The Bar’, the service was ‘very moving and very appropriate’ with the cathedral having ‘done the association proud’ according to ARY chairman and last serving captain of the Britannia, Commodore Tony Marrow.
He said: ‘We have not been able to have a memorial service because of Covid – but these are people who died not (due to) Covid, but we have been able to come together and honour those we have lost.
‘We have such a strong sense of community within the association.’
Waterlooville resident Robert Pitman, who was a stoker onboard the Britannia for 12 years, agreed: ‘It was quite emotional.
‘The association is one big family – I think we should think about this doing this not every year, but every other year at least.’
Commodore Marrow said memorials tied into the association’s biennial reunion dinners could be considered for the future.
The Very Reverend Dr Anthony Cane said it was was ‘particularly meaningful and important’ to hold the service given the cathedral’s location in Portsmouth.
He said: ‘This is the cathedral of the sea – it’s our identity. So it’s particularly meaningful and important to have an event like this at the cathedral.
‘I was talking to one family here who lost a loved one a year ago. They were able to hold a service but it was such a restricted event. For them, it was so meaningful to gather together with others today.’
Yachtsmen who served onboard Britannia were specially chosen from Royal Navy crews, affording them ‘a unique and very special experience’, according to Rustington resident Jim Shotter, who served for three years onboard Britannia as a Queen’s cabin steward.
The 70-year-old said: ‘It’s absolutely brilliant to serve onboard.
‘It’s a unique and very special experience that builds real camaraderie among those who do.
‘And we are the only naval association that can go back and visit its ship.’
HMY Britannia Edinburgh is open as a tourist attraction in Edinburgh.