Thursday, January 11, 2007

Touching Story of the Day

British veteran of World War II, and survivor of the sinking of the Gloucester, has his ashes committed to the deep near Crete, where his comrades died 65 years ago:

A survivor of one of Britain's worst wartime Naval disasters has had his dying wish carried out.

Ken MacDonald's ashes were committed to the deep over the wreck of the cruiser Gloucester, sunk by enemy action in 1941 with the loss of 723 lives.

Mr MacDonald, a marine bandsman, was one of just 82 survivors when the cruiser was dive-bombed by German Stukas off the coast of Crete as it helped defend the island from occupation.

Gloucester, which saw so much enemy action it was nicknamed "the Fighting G", was a grievous loss, having won five battle honours in less than a year's service.

On 22 May, having fought off several raids with no air protection and almost out of ammunition, it was hit four times and set ablaze.

Mr MacDonald, who was manning one of the cruiser's massive guns, managed to scramble to safety through a hatch. He was picked up by a German ship and was a prisoner-of-war for four years.

Returning to Britain, he vowed that, when his time came, he wanted his ashes to be scattered where his comrades had perished.

After his death a year ago, aged 88, Mr MacDonald's ashes were kept while the Navy made arrangements to carry out his wish.

Last month the present-day Gloucester, a destroyer, set off on an anti-terrorism patrol to the Mediterranean. With its crew gathered on deck, a cask containing his remains and draped in the Union flag, was committed to the deep.

The ship's captain, Commander Mike Paterson, said: "It was a great honour for us to be able to commit his ashes to the sea over the previous Gloucester..."

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1 comment:

Philo-Junius said...

Remembering the HMS Gloucester also reminds us that fatal mistakes inevitably happen in war, even good wars:

One major reason the death toll was so high in the sinking of the Gloucester was that recovery efforts were not undertaken by the RAF or Royal Navy, and German planes were able to strafe the survivors in the water repeatedly until Axis naval vessels arrived to take them prisoner.