Members of the HMS Dunedin Society met for a summer reunion and remembrance ceremony in the beautiful and serene surroundings of the National Memorial Arboretum on Sunday 19th June. Gathered around the HMS Dunedin memorial plinth, members conducted a short ceremony of remembrance and laid wreaths in memory of all the men of HMS Dunedin. The plinth was dedicated in 2003 and stands under the HMS Dunedin oak tree, planted at the same time. After the ceremony and a bite to eat, the group gathered in the Arboretum Founders’ Room for a presentation and discussion about HMS Dunedin and her men.
See below for some photos of the day’s events.
It was a pleasure to be at the Arboretum again to remember the men of HMS Dunedin at their only dedicated memorial. Not having been there since 2006, I saw how the Arboretum had developed into a spectacular and fitting venue at which to remember the losses from all our Armed Services and specifically those of HMS Dunedin. In 2006, the trees were short and the memorials were few. Today, the Arboretum is a mass of beautiful trees and hundreds of individual memorials as well as the collective ones for each of the services. Our plinth is showing its age and will need some repair and maintenance work in due course, but it was lovely to see it beneath the HMS Dunedin oak tree (which I remember as a wispy sapling when we dedicated the plinth in 2003 and which now dominates Dunedin’s patch of the Arboretum) and then adorned with wreaths.
After a spot of lunch, the group gathered in the Founders Room for a presentation on HMS Dunedin and a discussion. Between us, I, Daniel Morgan and Rory Mckenna told the brief history of Dunedin from her launch in 1919 to her final voyage in 1941. We then focused on the events of 24th November and the days that followed, drawing on the accounts of some of the men who were there and survived the ordeal. Each of us stood, in turn, in different parts of the room to tell the story of the sinking and of the rescue of the sixty-seven men who survived. This is not an easy tale to tell, especially to families whose relatives did not survive, but it led to one of the best discussions about Dunedin that I can remember and which underlined the essential truth that the story of HMS Dunedin is less about the ship but much more about the men who lived and served in her. As with all our reunions, we were left with a reinforced determination to maintain the memory of the men of HMS Dunedin. Our presentation ended with a quote from Commander Drake, of Admiralty Intelligence, who had written in 1942 to Anne Randall’s mother Monica in the wake of the loss her husband The First Lieutenant Sowdon. It is fitting to reproduce it here:
From what I hear the Dunedin has been doing most difficult and dangerous work, with very little rest for anyone on board, and was outstandingly efficient at it. We shall all remain for ever in the debt of those who die that we may live. For that after all is what so many of our Navy are doing, their praises unsung to the public, but heroes a thousand times over to those who know what they have done.