HMS EXETER REMEMBERED
A selection of images from this year's Parade/Cathedral Service/Reunion event marking the 75th and 35th anniversaries will be placed here.
Please email any you may have to me here asap after the event.
On behalf of the President and Members of the Exeter Branch, Royal Marines Association, thank you for an excellent Parade in Exeter and the Service of Remembrance that followed in the Cathedral. it was a pleasure and honour for the Exeter Branch to be invited.
Well done to all those involved in the planning, the service sheets, the excellent readings, especially from Tom Jowett (son of HMS Exeter (68) survivor) and Dougie Leask (HMS Exeter (D89) 1980-1982) - very moving. Not forgetting Dean, who will always be a Chief GI in anyone books for taking charge of the parade and with others organising the draw and our time in the White Ensign Club afterwards. Brilliant.
FYI - the Standard Bearers were:-
Exeter Submariners - Pat Langdon
White Ensign Club - Mervyn Strudwick
RMA National Standard - Tony Male
Exeter RMA - Ben Chetwyn.
Best wishes and see you next year
Royal Marines Association
By Rear Admiral Paul Bennett CB OBE
I was fortunate enough to command the Type 42 HMS EXETER in 99-00. We deployed to the Middle East and operated hard. However, it is not the operations that stick in my mind, but the ship's company, who to a man and woman, were first class.
It is for that reason, primarily, that I am delighted to be a member of the HMS EXETER Association the opportunity to stay in touch with those who served with me, but also with a lot of like-minded people from other years, united by the fond memory of their time in HMS EXETER.
There is, however, a second, equally important, reason for being a member - to remember the fallen.
What makes the EXETER Association far more than a social club is its determination to remember three extraordinary moments in history in which HMS EXETER fought with great distinction, but in doing so we lost shipmates to enemy action. Although, sadly, very few World War 2 veterans are still alive, we share with the few and with many family and friends the stories of extraordinary bravery in the Battle of the River Plate and of those who were sunk in the Java Sea and subsequently endured over 3 years interred as POWs in Macassar. And then, closer to today, the ship's company of the Type 42 EXETER who was an integral part of the fight to retake the Falklands in 1982.
Thank you to the Association for creating the opportunities for it members to both meet and remember ship mates and family members past and present - all members of one great EXETER family.
I’ve been asked to talk of the 82 Crew,
And tell you of things that we went through.
A crew of young men, who became a team,
Whilst going through a time, you don’t want to dream.
We were in the Caribbean having a ball,
When news came in, we’d got the call.
Sheffield' been sunk, it’s now a race,
Exeter's needed to take its place.
So off we sailed, suntanned and under prepared,
With trepidation, and a little bit scared.
Two weeks we had to get fighting fit,
And join with the task force to do our bit.
Her Blue Hull shining on the sea, Exeter stood out from the Fleet,
With Battle Honours that did her proud, she never knew defeat.
The River Plate Crew from Thirty Nine
Had sailed this course, it was now our time.
Through troubled times she held us tight,
But we always knew… we’d be alright.
We learned how fear can get to you
But team work always got us through.
The aircraft came, they sent their best
We chased some home and laid some to rest,
They brought their exocets out to play
But we stood firm and won our day.
We’d played our part, the war was won,
The Falklands saved, that job was done.
But before we sailed we had one thing to do,
We were asked ashore, and Old Exeters, we remembered you!
Now through those days we made a bond, we’ll never cast aside,
The old girl meant so much to all who walked her decks with pride.
She served us well, protecting all with honour and with valour,
To serve on board our Blue Hulled ship, it was our finest hour.
"Semper Fidelis", Always Faithful, of that we still abide,
And very soon we’ll raise a glass and stand there, side by side.
We’ll toast to all who sailed in her, and to all the Exeter crews,
But special thanks will go to the man, who saw that we got through,
The calmest man, you ever saw, who cared for all his Men,
He’ll always be our hero, Captain Hugh Balfour… (RIP Sir), Amen.
Exeter was commissioned in March 1942 with a crew of over 600, 84 of these were boys aged only 16 or 17.
Exeter fought in both battles of the Java Sea, both against overwhelming odds outnumbered three to one, during the second battle on 1st March 1942, with Exeter’s guns pointing horizontally, still firing at the enemy, the ship was scuttled.
Over 60 men lost their lives during these two battles.
The survivors were picked up from the water over the following three days and taken to Macassar.
Here, their living quarters were cramped, food was very basic, just a handful of rice a day.
Work involved clearing the jungle, mining nickel, building airports, air-raid shelters and their own camp, -all by hand.
120 died during 1945 due to dysentery and the other prevalent diseases, such as malaria and beri-beri.
The Guards used physical beatings as punishment for any alleged crime.
Over 180 didn’t come home, those that did weighed around 6 stones (less than 40 kilos).
Three and a half years later, Japan surrendered on 15th August 1945, Macassar was only liberated on 24th September, some of the younger lads arriving home in Britain just in time for their 21st birthdays.
It took several years for them to come to terms with their experiences and illnesses, many never did.
The fighting spirit of these “Men of Exeter”, who fought to save their ship, supported their shipmates through the internment, and returned home, and still lives with us, making us what we are today.