Monday, 5 October 2009

FALMOUTH HOSTS THE CHARIOTEERS: OCTOBER 2009


Saturday October 3rd was something of a banner day for the Charioteers and their families, as they were hosted by the port of Falmouth for a day-long series of events organised - expertly - by Eric Dawkins. Following a comfortable evening in the Royal Duchy Hotel, who had offered a very reasonable package to all those taking part, we assembled at the Chariot memorial on Prince of Wales pier for a Service of Memorial attended by numerous dignitaries, British and French, and representatives of several of HM ships. As you can see from the very inexpert snap above, the event attracted quite a crowd and will no doubt be described in detail for the next newsletter of the St Nazaire Society. A short service was conducted by the Reverend Barrington Bennetts, with General Corran Purdon giving a reading which ended with the Kohima Epigram - "When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrows we gave our today".

The Service on the pier was followed by a reception on board the type 22 frigate HMS Chatham, sister ship of HMS Campbeltown, whose captain, Commander Huntington, and crew made everyone welcome on the afterdeck. A photo of the 'sting in her tail' is shown above.

That evening, prior to dinner in the Royal Duchy, there was a presentation to his niece, Elizabeth Ungly, of a book about Micky Burn and the boys of his No 6 Troop, written by the Australian author and historian Peter Stanley. The book recounts the extraordinary efforts of Micky's parents in the months and years following the raid, to determine the fate of 'the boys' and maintain contact with and between their all-too-often grieving families. The presence of M. Charles Nicol's son with his Breton pipes added a wonderful Celtic flavour to the event, this including his accompaniment of Siobhan Blake's moving rendition of 'Amazing Grace'. Indeed the presence of the representatives from St-Nazaire gave a particular context to the whole affair, with the Mayor, M. Joel Batteux, MBE, making a speech in unfamiliar English. In addition to M. Batteux there were, Mme Tesseyre, Deputy Mayor, Madam Boeff, Corporal Nicol, mentioned above, and M. and Mme Charles Nicol (Charles is Director of Communication for the port and a long-time friend of the Charioteers).

The whole event took us back to a time when the engine of civilization was not almost exclusively corporate and when concepts such as duty and honour were not so speedily dismissed at they are perhaps today. To illustrate this is the return journey, by train, from Falmouth to Shrewsbury, of Dr and Mrs Bill 'Tiger' Watson who were a little slow in making the transition between platforms in order to catch a connecting train. A request was made that the train be held for just a minute so that they could make it - needless to say this was not granted. Welcome to the world of frantic, impersonal 2009!