UK FLAGSHIP HMS ALBION REMEMBERS D-DAY
Sailors and Royal Marines who would spearhead an amphibious assault remembered the men and women of 1944 on deployment in the Baltic.
The ship’s company of HMS Albion and Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade, plus soldiers and airmen – more than 500 personnel in all – gathered on the flight deck of Britain’s flagship for a D-Day service of thanksgiving, remembrance and reflection led by ship’s chaplain Reverend Eddie Wills.
And as a mark of respect, the ship’s company also formed a giant ‘75’ on the flight deck in tribute to all of those who fought on D-Day and went on to liberate the whole of Europe from Nazi oppression.
Albion is leading Britain’s involvement in the two-month-long Baltic Protector deployment, acting as flagship of the new Joint Expeditionary Force formed by nine nations with shorelines on the North and Baltic Seas.
The sacrifices of June 6 1944 resonate all the way to the top of the task group; its commander, Commodore James Parkin, told those gathered for the service of the loss of his great uncle, Able Seaman George Rexstrew.
He was a crewman on the unglamorous Landing Barge Vehicle (LBV) 42, a former lighter used in London’s docks until converted to carry a small number of vehicles ashore.
LBV 42 sailed from Poole on the night of June 5 1944, one of more than 400 barges committed to the Normandy landings as support craft, earmarked to help American forces storm Omaha Beach.
The small boat was attacked by the Germans and sank. All four crew – none more senior than a leading hand – was lost.
George Rexstrew’s body was never found. His name is now recorded on plate 83 of the Naval War Memorial in Southsea. Cdre Parkin never knew him, while his grandmother never properly got to know her elder brother.
Able Seaman Alexander Mansell spoke of his admiration for those who served on D-Day and how they performed their duties with immense courage whilst under enemy fire.
The service also included readings of General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day and extracts from the memoirs of Royal Naval Chaplain Mike Crooks, who served on a US Landing Ship on June 6.
It is HMS Albion’s mission to command an amphibious landing, putting Royal Marines Commandos and their equipment on to hostile shores using her eight landing craft, plus Merlin and Chinook helicopters operating from the flight deck.
In addition, from the ship’s huge operations room, the actions of other ships in a task group – such as Bay-class amphibious support ships – air power, escort vessels and the like.
The task group she leads has just completed the first stage of the deployment, in and off Jutland working with the Dutch, Danes and Norwegians.