HMS King Alfred commemorates their Royal Naval Division Predecessors in front of large crowds at the Menin Gate

On the anniversary of the 1918 Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids, in front of large crowds, HMS King Alfred lays a wreath at the Menin Gate to commemorate their Royal Naval Division predecessors.

In 1918 the Royal Navy and Royal Navy Reserve were fighting on both land and sea on the Western Front. To commemorate the fallen and study the hugely significant role of the Royal Naval Reserve in the battles of the final year, a team from HMS King Alfred has visited the key sites Belgium and Northern France.

In a major piece of ceremonial duty, HMS King Alfred was honoured to be part of the high-profile Friday night last post ceremony at the Menin Gate. Two of the unit’s most junior sailors, AB Olivia Ashman and AB Tom Maurice Powys were chosen to lay a wreath in memory of the fallen.

AB Ashman said, “It was a huge privilege to be part of such a public ceremony. It’s something I’d never have had the opportunity to do outside of the Naval Reserve.”

The Royal Navy Division (made up of Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marines) served as part of the British Army. Although now often overlooked, the Royal Navy Division made a significant contribution to the war on land, fighting on the Western Front, at Gallipoli and conducting amphibious raids on the occupied Belgian coast.   

It was great to see the pride in our young sailors and the interest they had in learning about their Royal Naval forbears and the brave acts they carried out.

Lt Martin Heighway

Today there are valuable lessons to be learnt from studying these actions. The visit provided a very valuable opportunity for training in military studies, research techniques and Naval history.

April and May 2018 also mark the centenary of the Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids, some of the bravest actions of World War One. The raids were an attempt by the Royal Navy to block the German occupied harbours of Zeebrugge and Ostend and stop German U-boats attacking British shipping in the channel from these.

The Royal Navy force was made up of 75 ships and 1,700 men drawn from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Navy Reserve.  The fighting was fierce and at both raids and resulted in 8 VCs being awarded, three to Naval Reservists (Lt Cdr Percy Dean RNVR, Lieut-Cdr Roland Bourke, DSO, RNVR and Lieut-Cdr Geoffrey Heneage Drummond, RNVR).

Lt Martin Heighway, who organised the visit summed it up by saying, “It was great to see the pride in our young sailors and the interest they had in learning about their Royal Naval forbears and the brave acts they carried out.”

HMS King Alfred is the largest RNR unit in the South and covers a catchment area from Sussex to Dorset and north to the top of Hampshire. The unit is currently recruiting and offers a wide range of roles and specialisations.

To find out more about career opportunities visit the website: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/maritime-reserves/royal-naval-reserveor consider registering for the HMS King Alfred Open Day (RNR Live event) at Whale Island, Portsmouth on Saturday 9th June by calling: 03456 00 32 22.