Welcome everybody
Good to see new faces and familiar ones
We’ve been meeting as a group here every year since 2001
In those years we have built a community around HMS Dunedin
We are the families and friends of the men who served in HMS Dunedin….
.…of those who survived and the very many more who perished seventy-eight years ago today and during the terrible four days and three nights that followed
We have discovered what happened and why it happened
We have learnt what a little known light cruiser did; built too late for the First World War and largely out of date by the time the second one started, she did so much in such a short space of time….
…..she escorted convoys, intercepted Vichy French vessels, captured a couple of German merchant ships in the Caribbean, and intercepted and captured a German tanker in the aftermath of the sinking of the Bismarck; we learnt how she did what she did largely on the back of the breaking of the Germans’ Enigma code (one of the great stories of the War), and how she came to her end after a chance encounter with a German U-boat
We have learnt how, as a result of that attack, most of the ship’s company of 480 perished
And we have talked to some of those who survived
I consider it a major privilege of my life to have met a dozen or so of these men who became cherished members of our community
They are all gone now; they have re-joined the friends and comrades they left behind, the men whose names appear on the memorial behind us
Each of the men of HMS Dunedin has left us with precious memories, not just of a time gone by, but of camaraderie and excitement, but also anguish and separation from their loved ones…..and of doing one’s duty for a higher calling, of pulling together in a time of great adversity
The survivors who personally told us their stories, did so with a beautiful mix of humour and pathos, of happiness and sadness
We listened in awe and took them to our hearts
I miss them, but each of us here will always remember the men of HMS Dunedin
I would like, if I may, to say a few words about my father, who started to talk about what happened to him very late in his life, sometime around 1996
Having bottled up his emotions and his memories, he finally let them out. It started a process which led us here to our Dunedin community
At times, the telling of his story became too painful and he would stop to compose himself. I often wondered whether it was right to persevere, but he was always determined to keep going, to tell the story in honour of those who did not return
The eight short months he spent on board HMS Dunedin, in a life of ninety two years, were, I believe, the defining moments of his life. He remained troubled by what he saw and what he went through, until his dying days
But I know also the comfort he drew from this group and all others who have stood here in the wind and rain every November for almost the last twenty years
It broke his heart when he was too frail to come
He offloaded some truly painful memories along the way and I am sure he kept others to himself, but I’m glad he persevered in telling his story. And so, in the end, was he
In time, all our survivors spoke; and so also did the men who perished – in their letters and diaries and through the cherished memories of their families
Together, they told the story of HMS Dunedin
And we remember them all today.