RELATIVES have paid tribute to the last known survivor of a ship involved in a daring Second World War mission to liberate Malta.
Lieutenant Derek Walling, who died aged 94 of pneumonia, served for 25 years in the Royal Navy and was on HMS Eagle as part of Operation Pedestal.
As the aircraft carrier sank in 1942, Lt Walling rescued six of his shipmates, an interview about which was printed in the Times of Malta in 2013.
He also outlived those on board HMS Caledonia – the first ship the sailor served on aged 15 – when it was a training vessel.
Bernard Scerri, president of the Maltese Culture Movement, attended Lt Walling’s funeral earlier this month.
He said: ‘We are so privileged to have known you. The people of Malta are forever indebted to your heroism. We will miss you.’
Derek was born in Southsea in 1922 and lived there before moving to Scotland with his family.
After his time in the navy, where he served on many ships and became the second in command of Pembroke Dockyard, Lt Walling returned to Southsea and started teaching.
By this point he and his wife Maureen, who were married for 69 years before she died in 2015, had two children named Kevin and Annette. Later they had two more, Martine and John, and five grandchildren.
Lt Walling started out at Nazareth House school before becoming deputy headteacher at St Swithun’s School in Southsea.
He did a lot of volunteering and was heavily involved with St Patrick’s Church, Hayling Island, where his funeral was held.
Throughout his time there Lt Walling became a voluntary sacristan, musical director, church organist and choirmaster. He was also the organist at Portsmouth Catholic Cathedral.
The former sailor lived on Hayling Island from 1976 onwards and achieved many things. In 2006 he was awarded the Benemerenti medal for service by Pope Benedict XVI.
Derek’s daughter Martine said: ‘If everyone was able to be a little bit like our father there would be no need for war.
‘He taught us to care about others no matter what, and said “in conflict, it’s not about what’s fair, but who is able to make the move to resolve things”.’
More than 150 people attended Lt Walling’s funeral.
His son Kevin gave a eulogy and told The News: ‘Dad was the most generous of men, always giving and expecting nothing in return. He loved everyone.’