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Derby commemorates the final reunion of the HMS Kenya crew

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 December 2019

Surviving members of HMS Kenya's crew: Derrick Cuthbert, John Rickford, Brian Franklin, Peter Lewis, Raymond 'Ginger' Board, George 'Scotty' Wyllie, Bob Hill and Dennis Patterson

Surviving members of HMS Kenya's crew: Derrick Cuthbert, John Rickford, Brian Franklin, Peter Lewis, Raymond 'Ginger' Board, George 'Scotty' Wyllie, Bob Hill and Dennis Patterson

geoff ford

Geoff Ford attends the final reunion for the crew of HMS Kenya, the ship adopted by Derby at the start of the Second World War.

In 1942 the citizens of Derby raised funds for repairs to the Colony Class cruiser HMS Kenya, which had been damaged in the Mediterranean while protecting the Malta convoy. For the past 30 years surviving members of the ship's crew and members of their families have gathered in Derby, the ship's adopted city, for an annual reunion dinner. Sadly, the decision was taken that the reunion at The Stuart Hotel this September would the final one. The eight remaining members of the crew who attended came from across the ship's working life from 1940 to 1959. The Mayor of Derby, Cllr Frank Harwood and four former mayors also attended the event.

One former crew member, 95-year-old Raymond 'Ginger' Board, who was just 16½ when he joined the Royal Navy and was among the first aboard the newly-commissioned ship in 1940, recalled the attack when the ship was damaged. 'It was action stations from the Wednesday to the Friday. We were closed off all the time, dive-bombed and torpedo bombed. We were torpedoed but we didn't sink - they blew the bows off! We carried on to Malta and came back again to Gibraltar where they put a concrete bow on it to bring us home but we weren't very long at sea when it washed away. So we crept home at 12 knots all the way to Scapa Flow. It took four days and when we entered Scapa Flow we got cheered around the fleet!'

The late Neville Jackson was represented by his son Warrant Officer Paul Jackson who commented on the reunion: 'Everywhere they've been in Derby, they have been welcomed and it has been a highlight of the year for them to come here. I would drive my dad here and he was always excited about attending. The stories got longer every year. I've heard them all many times. They'd go to see the HMS Kenya bell in the Council House. When they were in punishment they would get extra work polishing the bell so they remember it very well. It's very shiny!'

The ship's bell and wheel are on display at the Grand Staircase in Derby Council HouseThe ship's bell and wheel are on display at the Grand Staircase in Derby Council House

A scale model of HMS Kenya created by Tony Fern was on display and the veterans were all keen to point out their action stations and share their memories. They included: Peter Lewis, Bob Hill, George 'Scotty' Wyllie, Derrick Cuthbert, Brian Franklin, and Dennis Patterson, Chair of the HMS Kenya Association. Also in attendance were Suzy Watkins and Joanne Williams, great-nieces of the association's late President Cyril Chapman, and John Rickwood, Honorary Secretary of the now disbanded HMS Kenya Association. John said: 'We have always been made welcome in Derby. It has been lovely to have our reunions in our adopted city. Sadly, this year will be the last of our adventures.'

The Mayor of Derby, Cllr Harwood, said: 'On behalf of the City of Derby, HMS Kenya and its members past and present will stay in our hearts and minds even though this will be the last event for your association.'

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