King Alfred sailors march in the footsteps of WW1 heroes

Reservists from HMS King Alfred walked in the footsteps of Great War heroes as they completed their tribute to the men of 1914-18.

Personnel from the Portsmouth unit joined international commemorations in the Belgian city of Mons – where the first and last British soldiers killed in the conflict are buried.

When that war ended on November 11 1918 no British unit had advanced nearer to German soil than the men of the Royal Naval Division – Royal Marines and sailor-soldiers, often drawn from reservists.

For the past three years, personnel from the Portsmouth reservist unit have been retracing the path taken by the division – from Gallipoli to the Somme, Arras and Passchendaele and finally the advance to victory.

I’m very proud to have represented King Alfred at the ceremonies and had an opportunity to pay my respects on such a prestigious date in history.

Hannah Myers RNR

They brought the curtain down on those battlefield tours with a weekend in Belgium, from the Nieuwpoort Memorial on the coast to the Dodengang (‘The Trench of Death’) and the HMS Vindictive Memorial in Ostend honouring the commando raids on the Belgian ports in the spring of 1918 to bottle up German U-boats in their Flanders base, before ending up at the Mons Armistice parade.

“Tours like these are important to junior ranks within the RN to educate us on British history and understanding the responsibility we that have as serving members of the military,” said Recruit Hannah Myers, one of the most junior reservists on the trip.

“I’m very proud to have represented King Alfred at the ceremonies and had an opportunity to pay my respects on such a prestigious date in history.”

This commemorative visit, partly funded by the RNRMC, was led by the unit’s info ops officer and historian Lt Cdr Martin ‘Gunny’ Heighway, who’s been determined to remind today’s generation of sailors of the sacrifices made by the often-overlooked Royal Naval Division.

“We have conducted a full cycle of tours concerning the Royal Naval Division in World War I. One thing that battlefield tourism teaches you is that there is always something new to learn.

“Probably the highlight of the tours was standing on the beach at Gallipolli in 2015 where my grandfather had come ashore 100 years before.”