COURAGEOUS seafarers who navigate the waves for our nation were celebrated in a special church service this morning.
Hundreds united for the annual spectacle at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral to pay their respects to mariners past and present – as well as those who have lost their lives on the water.
It began at 10.30am when dignitaries from the city and beyond joined with the public in song and prayer, after an introduction from Portsmouth Cathedral’s acting dean the Rev Canon Peter Leonard.
A short procession to Nelson’s Statue at Grand Parade later followed, where wreaths were laid and one was committed to the sea by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, councillor Lee Mason.
Among the crowds who attended the service was Jean Goodson, from Portsmouth, in honour of her late husband Guy.
‘This means a lot to me. My husband worked for the Royal Navy on submarines and my great-grandfather was in the navy too,’ she said.
‘I love coming here and I found the service very moving. Some of the hymns had me in floods of tears, so I’m glad I brought my tissues.’
Captivating cathedral dwellers’ attention, assistant curate the Rev Matt Bray delivered an address on the ‘storm’ seafarers from fishermen to Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel face at sea.
This was followed by input from Amy Mitchell, the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth’s Best Cadet for 2018, who said it was an ‘honour’ to read aloud a prayer during the service.
‘It’s really important to remember service personnel and civilians who have served like this,’ the 18-year-old flight sergeant of Air Training Corps said.
‘I also got the chance to bear a wreath at Nelson’s Statue, which was great.’
After proceedings inside Portsmouth Cathedral concluded, revellers congregated nearby to remember the life of Horatio Lord Nelson, who died after suffering devastating injuries at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
It was then the Lord Mayor, Cllr Mason, who threw a wreath into the Solent in honour of seafarers from Portsmouth and further afield.
Adrian Bell, the newly-appointed chief executive of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, which benefited from a collection, said services like today’s are ‘vital’.
‘It means an awful lot to be here. I served in the Royal Navy until eight years ago and when you witness what life is like on the sea, day in, day out, it’s challenging.
‘But it doesn’t matter whether you’re merchant, a marine, a sailor, or a fisherman, we all live in that same environment and we all face the same challenges.
‘And when the wind blows and the sea goes, it is pretty powerful and can be quite awesome at times.’
The Seafarers’ Service was also attended by the mayors of Gosport, Fareham and Havant, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, and leader of Portsmouth City Council Gerald Vernon-Jackson.