Hundreds gather to celebrate the life of much-loved Falklands War priest

HUNDREDS packed into Portsmouth Cathedral to celebrate the life of a much-loved priest.

Tuesday, 16th January 2018, 6:00 am
Canon Roger Devonshire's coffin is carried in to Portsmouth Cathedral
Canon Roger Devonshire's coffin is carried in to Portsmouth Cathedral

Family, friends and scores of Royal Navy veterans united in bidding farewell to Canon Roger Devonshire yesterday, who died aged 77 on December 30, 2017.

Born in Luton, he was the padre aboard HMS Hermes during the Falklands War and later became a recognisable face for veterans across the region, when he led a series of armed forces services.

At a funeral marked with song, prayer and holy communion yesterday, his life was celebrated – before his cremation today.

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Canon Roger Devonshire

Canon Devonshire’s wife Mary, with whom he had three sons, said the ceremony was ‘exactly what he would have wanted’.

She said: ‘It was a service he would have totally approved of.

‘He hadn’t mentioned anything about a funeral, but through the advice of the cathedral, I have truly had so much help.

‘This has been beautiful and I know it’s exactly what he would have wanted.’

Canon Roger Devonshire

Among those leading the service was Keith Robus, a chaplain in the Royal Navy and a colleague of Roger’s for two years.

He said: ‘Roger was one of the finest priests I’ve ever worked with.

‘He had a huge influence on the lives of many people, particularly the sailors on board HMS Hermes.

‘I think it’s fair to say in the perfect storm or in a foxhole, when under fire or facing the raging sea – there is no such thing as an atheist.

‘And among it all, Roger was a man who would listen, understand, reach out and give courage and counsel.

‘Not only that, he gave his friendship.’

Once witness to his faithful teachings in the heart of war, more than 40 members of the HMS Hermes association attended the funeral to pay their respects.

The collective’s vice-chairman and standard-bearer, Iain Shickle, said: ‘On board Hermes we had a small chapel, but Roger held nearly all his services in the junior dining room because it was the only place big enough to take them.

‘There aren’t words to express what he did for us and he really will be sorely missed.’

Reflecting on Canon Devonshire’s impact on the city, armed forces champion at Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Frank Jonas, said: ‘Roger did a great number of services for armed forces veterans here in Portsmouth.

‘It is incredibly sad and he will remembered by all of the service personnel in the surrounding area.

‘He was a big part of their lives and it is a real loss.’