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5114 miles already walked

Keeping Busy in Milford

After another visit to the physio, I’ve been kept very busy doing 18 different exercises repeated at regular intervals each day.  This was also the week I ventured out for some trial walks to see if I could move a little more freely. Still resembling an American footballer, I found my shoulder brace and the cross-body backpack worked well.  Amazingly my feet knew what to do too!

One of my trial walks returned me to emergency exit Gate 7 of the Valero Refinery where I again met Peter, my rescuer.  Last week when we met he was pushing a trolley in a local supermarket, this time he delivered the Victory Walker back to the point where he’d found me in a crumpled heap in February.  I cautiously retraced my steps to the spot of my accident, feeling goose-pimples as I identified the place, before quickly moving on.

Back at our apartment, waterborne activity continues to fascinate.  Diagonally across the Haven we have a clear view of the Angle lifeboat which has been kept active responding to various calls over the sunny Easter period: today alone, it has been launched twice.  By contrast, during Easter 1943 when the weather was foul and Angle lifeboat was undergoing repair and couldn’t be launched, a tragic disaster unfolded.

Two Landing Crafts (numbers 15 and 16), manned by RN personnel and full of Royal Marines, were being battered by a ferocious gale lashing the Pembrokeshire coast.  En route to Falmouth, both Landing Craft had recently received a poor and incomplete conversion in Belfast. As LCTs, originally designed to transport tanks, they had been hastily converted to LCGs to carry guns in preparation for the pending invasion of Sicily; unfortunately too much of the decks had been left open to the elements. 

The storm worsened and both craft had already taken on water before becoming separated and totally overwhelmed by the terrible conditions. Meanwhile, a passing escort ship, HMS Rosemary, saw one of the stricken landing craft, LCG16, but being unable to pass a line to her, HMS Rosemary’s Captain called for six volunteers to man the ship’s whaler.  Shortly after the whaler had been launched it was engulfed by waves and all six sailors lost their lives as did the occupants of LCG16.  Those aboard LCG15 suffered a similar fate when pitched into the sea near Freshwater West; they drowned or were fatally injured when thrown up on nearby rocks.  In all, 73 personnel from the two Landing Craft lost their lives (only 3 survived), together with the 6 sailors from HMS Rosemary.

I came across the memorial high in the dunes at Freshwater West Bay, and there’s another in Milford Haven’s Cemetery where many of these sailors and marines were laid to rest. Several bodies were never found and the sea became their grave.

Royal Marines also featured for Frank (Support Team) this week when he went to meet a 94 year-old D-Day veteran who’d landed on the Normandy beaches with 41 Commando. Having also served in 41 Commando (but not at D-Day!), Frank went to meet veteran Ted Owens who has just had a book published about his wartime service: ‘Ted, the ‘Welsh Goat’ Hero. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I was out doing another trial walk – this time out near St Govan’s Head, where rock climbers swarmed thicker than nesting gulls!

Meanwhile, directly opposite our balcony we continue to watch the skill of local pilots and tugs manoeuvre and turn gigantic LNG tankers.  Last night we saw four tugs carefully escort ‘Duhail’ downstream, before ‘turning her on a sixpence’ and point her seawards. Dame Margot Fonteyn could not have pirouetted more gracefully!

See Photo Album No 71  – Keeping Busy in Milford