HMS Lancaster Sailors Remember Fallen Sailors in Key West, Florida

HMS Lancaster Sailors Remember Fallen Sailors in Key West, Florida

They may be gone – but not forgotten. That was the sentiment of sailors from HMS Lancaster during a recent stopover in Key West, Florida.

While on the island they visited and restored the graves of two British naval officers who were buried there in 1952.

Sub Lieutenant Smith and Midshipman Dewer were part of a consignment of young sailors due to attend a United Nations Combined Training Programme in the USA.

Sadly they died in an accident in 1952 at Navy Air Station Milton Field outside Pensacola, Florida. But with transatlantic flights still in their infancy it was decided that they would be laid to rest in Key West rather than be repatriated.

One of their shipmates, Sub Lieutenant Michael Inkpen, is father-in-law to HMS Lancaster’s Chief Stoker, CMEM Neil Halsey.

When he heard that the ship was visiting Key West he asked Neil to seek out and tend to the graves of his fallen colleagues.

Last week a team of nine HMS Lancaster’s sailors located the graves, laid flowers, and held a small remembrance ceremony.

CMEM Halsey said: “It was a great honour to represent my father-in-law Michael at the graves of his fellow shipmates, and I thank all members of HMS Lancaster’s ship’s company who assisted me in this task.”

The idea for a United Nations Combined Training Programme came about following heavy losses among Naval Air Squadrons at the start of the Korean War in the 1950s.

The location chosen for training was the USA and by the end of 1953, approximately 2,200 pilots and 2,400 other specialised aircrews from across NATO countries had been trained.

Sub Lieutenant Michael Inkpen and his two colleagues were part of the initial 30 Royal Navy personnel who travelled across the Atlantic to participate in the training programme.

Sadly, in February 1952 Sub Lieutenant Smith and Midshipman Dewer died while undergoing training.

Leading Seaman Chris Tounge was one of the nine who took part in the recent visit.

He said: “The grave visit was a great way to pay our respects to the families of our shipmates and others. I feel in this day and age it’s important to keep traditions going and show the junior members of the RN what sacrifices our elders made for us.”

Press Release, June 21, 2013; Image: Royal Navy