Photo Gallery: Paying tribute to the patrol heroes

THEIR courage and seamanship was vital to the nation in the darkest days of the second world war.

But the bravery of the members of the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS) has never been forgotten, and on Saturday their valiant efforts were recalled at a parade and service in Lowestoft.

Young and old joined to pay tribute to former members of the RNPS who served from Sparrow's Nest from 1939 to 1946, carrying out minesweeping operations and keeping vital maritime supply lines open.

Families stood side-by-side at Belle Vue Park for the annual reunion parade and service, having got together for a dinner at the Hotel Hatfield the previous evening. And thoughts also turned to old comrades.

RNPS Association national secretary Leo Whisstock said the weekend's events were a tribute to the former national secretary John Dunn, of Oulton Broad, who died earlier this year, aged 91.

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Mr Whisstock said: 'Numbers are down because the chaps are getting older and can't travel so far, but we had a very meaningful service because last year the national secretary of 30 years gave up and I took over.

'He died a few months after that, so it has been a hard year as he was the association.'

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On Saturday, the veterans joined with their relatives for a march through Belle Vue Park, including Jeff Palmer, a former stoker on board the minesweeper BYMS 2047, who travelled from America to attend the event.

After the service, a salute was taken by Cdr Garry Titmus, of the Royal Navy, at Sparrow's Nest gardens in front of the original wartime Naval buildings which now house the association's museum.

The standard of the Midlands branch, which closed this year, was also laid down.

Last Friday, on the day before the service and parade, 86 people had got together for a meal at the Hotel Hatfield.

There, a photo of Mr Dunn was placed on the top table in his honour.

Mr Whisstock said that the annual reunion remained an important event and the association would continue to stage it.

'We are going to carry on. At the AGM, the association decided we would carry on regardless as we act as a research tool for naval history. The museum keeps the memory alive, so it is vital we keep going.'

HMS Europa, in Sparrow's Nest gardens, acted as the headquarters of the RNPS during the war.

Crews carried out minesweeping, anti-submarine duties and coastal protection work – safeguarding convoys and keeping the vital supply lines open between Britain and Europe with a 'fighting fleet' that was made up of hundreds of requisitioned fishing trawlers, whalers, drifters, paddle steamers, yachts, tugs and other vessels.

There were about 66,000 men in the patrol service serving on about 6,000 ships.

About 14,000 were killed and 600 ships sunk. The names of those lost feature on the memorial at Belle Vue Park.

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