RNR Air Branch remembers HMS Ringtail and Liverpool
Royal Naval Reserve Air Branch members from the Royal Navy’s Air Stations at Culdrose and Yeovilton turned out up in force for the culmination in Liverpool of the Battle of Atlantic 70th Anniversary celebrations, bringing a considerable amount of Naval experience with them.
Following on from similar events that took place in London and Northern Ireland, the Liverpool event was always going to be the biggest and best. Not only because of a special memorial service at the City’s Anglican Cathedral attended by Royalty and very senior Royal Navy Officers. But a parade of veterans, serving personnel and marching platoons from visiting foreign Navy warships. Above in a cloudless clear blue sky; the day was rounded off by a spectacular Flypast by a legendry Fairey Swordfish that headed a line-up of current operational Royal Naval Helicopters.
During World War 2 Liverpool was the Headquarters of Western Approaches Command. Capital ships, Aircraft Carriers and Merchant ships of all shapes and sizes used Liverpool bay as a Naval Dockyard. To support the Fleet Air Arm afloat, airfields were built near the coast that could operate disembarked naval squadrons from the carriers. HMS Ringtail near Burscough 20 miles from the City had a short history but was responsible for training and working up FAA Units that deployed to the European and Far Eastern theatres of War. In all over 40 Naval Air Squadrons passed through HMS Ringtail before its closure in 1946.
Led by Commander Gary Duffield RNR, Air Branch members who are the descendants of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (A) who flew most of the Royal Navy’s aircraft during World War 2, laid a wreath and crosses on graves of naval aviators who are buried close to HMS Ringtail. They also visited the scene of a photograph taken between 1943 and 1946 at the `Bull and Dog Inn at Burscough, faithfully recreated the scene almost 70 years apart with current reservist members. Inside, a tradition of hammering coins into the cracks in the oak beams was continued by members keen to uphold local history.
The Fleet Air Arm Reservist contributed to all the events over a busy weekend in Liverpool. Hosting VIP’s and Dignitaries onboard HMS Bulwark, Ushers at the Memorial service in the Cathedral, in the air as part of the Swordfish crew, on the ground as part of the Flypast commentating team and a platoon of 21 marchers. (Boasting over 705 year’s naval service! The oldest has served 42 years and 6 months the youngest 9 years and 8 months.)
“It’s been an amazing weekend for all of us,” said Commander Gary Duffield, organiser of the RNR Air Branch team. “Everybody has special memories to take home; from seeing the crowds along the Mersey watching the Flypast- to the Veterans we met at the HMS Ringtail memorial service. Every sailor shares a common bond and events like this bring us closer.”