Memorial is step closer thanks to appeal

A MEMORIAL commemorating Britain's forgotten heroes could soon stand in one of the country's most historic maritime towns – thanks to the generosity of East Anglian Daily Times readers.

A MEMORIAL commemorating Britain's forgotten heroes could soon stand in one of the country's most historic maritime towns – thanks to the generosity of East Anglian Daily Times readers.

A year ago, the EADT launched the Forgotten Heroes appeal, in conjunction with the Harwich and District branch of the Merchant Navy Association.

Our aim was to raise enough money to build a memorial statue in Harwich honouring the thousands of seamen who lost their lives on the high seas ferrying vital supplies to Britain and its allies.

Seamen like the colleagues of Dick Fernside, of Langham, who saw 38 of his fellow crew members perish when his ship, the Hartlebury, was sunk by two torpedoes fired by a German U-boat in July 1942.

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Mr Fernside spent two days in a small life raft in the Arctic Circle before he was rescued by an American cargo ship called the Winston-Salem. He was chief radio engineer on the Hartlebury, which was shipping armaments to Russia from Iceland.

Although the armed forces are remembered each year in parades and at permanent war memorials, it is only in recent years that the sacrifice made by merchant seamen who lost their lives during the war has been recognised, with September 3 being made Merchant Navy Day.

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The association today has said a big thank you to EADT readers for helping bring their dream of a permanent memorial closer to reality.

Memorials are starting to go up around the country in ports including London, Liverpool and Bristol. It seems only fitting that a memorial should be built in the east of England, with Harwich, one of the country's most historic shipping centres, an ideal location.

Now the appeal fund stands at more than £11,000. An architect has drawn up plans for a five-metre tall obelisk and representatives from the Harwich and District Merchant Navy Association are due to meet Harwich Town Council next month to discuss the proposals. Once the plans are finalised, building costs can be estimated and a final fundraising push made.

It is hoped the obelisk, which will be inscribed with the Merchant Navy Association emblem on the middle section and a wave pattern carved around the base, will be installed at the Ha'Penny Pier, the historic quay in the heart of old Harwich.

Kate Wilson, secretary of the Harwich and District Merchant Navy Association, said: "Ideally the Association would like to see the memorial erected in Harwich Charter Year in 2004 but this means a great deal of fundraising is still to be done."

The association has raised £6,715.58 of the £11,243.67 appeal fund, through letters of appeal, raffles, auctions and other fundraising events.

"The branch has been lucky to receive a number of very helpful donations from a number of Harwich based organisations, in particular Harwich Police, Harwich Connexions - this was a donation for running costs which allowed more money to be funnelled into the Memorial Fund - the Freemasons, Royal Oak Quiz Team and others," said Mrs Wilson.

"There is no doubt that this memorial when erected will be because of the support from the small organisations and concerns and the generosity of people in Harwich and the surrounding area and EADT readers," she added.

This year the branch is planning to hold table top sales. The first is on May 10, at the Royal British Legion, Barrack Lane, Harwich, at 9.30am. Members have been given permission from Harwich International Port to raise money in the cruise ships departure lounge. They will also be holding a street collection in Harwich for Merchant Navy Day on Saturday August 30 to raise funds for the memorial.

Anyone wanting to make a donation to the appeal can send cheques made payable to East Anglian Daily Times, Fairfax House, Causton Road, Colchester, CO1 1RJ. Supporters can also pay money directly into HSBC, in North Station Road, Colchester, to the Forgotten Heroes account, sort code 40-18-51, account number 01236660.



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