Tears were shed as descendants of those who died at the World War One naval Battle of Jutland were remembered at a commemorative parade and service in Plymouth today.
Families of those who died in and survived the historic battle between the mighty German High Seas and Royal Navy’s Grand fleets gathered from all over the UK to honour the dead 100 years on.
The civic event, hosted by Plymouth City Council and organised by the Royal Navy on Plymouth Hoe, was attended by crowds from the city, civic and military guests and invited relatives of sailors who served their country in the largest sea battle between the world’s most powerful warships.
Tom Walton from Berkshire laid a wreath at Plymouth’s Naval War Memorial bearing a photo of his great uncle Leading Stoker William Thompson, 26, who died when the Devonport Naval Base warship Indefatigable sunk with the loss of 600 lives. He said: “It was worth the long journey here to Plymouth from where his ship sailed. He came from Colme in Lancashire and was my mother’s uncle. It is sad and a few of the older boys here had tears in their eyes. But the service was moving and very fitting. Even sadder is that my great uncle’s two brothers died in the Somme. All three brothers died in seven weeks in the First World War.’’
Commodore Ian Shipperley, Naval Base Commander, Devonport, attended the event. He said: “Today’s service was very poignant for the Royal Navy and for the city. This was an important battle as it enabled the continued blockade of Germany and the eventual outcome of the First World War.
“It was important for the city because of the 1,600 brave souls who died, sacrificing themselves for us and our future. Large areas of the city were heavily affected by the deaths because so many of the crews of Plymouth-based warships lived here.
“Because this is a naval city we are proud to have such close links with the community and these links are as close as they have ever been. I am honoured to represent the naval base – to be here is the right thing to do.’’
Peter Silverman, whose great-grandfather, Arthur Picton, survived Jutland, joined his daughter Ellen, seven, in laying a wreath in memory of him at the naval memorial at the event. He said: “I’m so glad we had this chance to honour my great grandfather and all the others who served at Jutland. It was especially moving to hear the recorded accounts of battle. It was a very effective way to bring the battle and the suffering alive. Ellen understands the significance of the day and played her part in a sombre occasion with great dignity. I’m proud of her.’’