HMS Kemerton’s golden anniversary

2012 is an important year for Kemerton, writes Ian McLeish. In June we celebrate the 50 years since the first commissioning of the Royal Navy minesweeper “HMS Kemerton”.

On June 8th 1962, a party from the village visited Southampton to attend the commissioning service and ceremony, to meet the ship’s company under the captaincy of Lt Comdr Quentin Lockwood, and to tour the ship.

During the afternoon invitations were issued for a return visit to be made, and later that year several households were host to the young sailors to come and see the village after which their vessel had been named.

The 118 ships in the “Ton Class” were minesweepers specially designed to counter the then current magnetic mine threat, to be constructed of non-ferrous materials, wood and aluminium. All their names ending in “ton” were selected from villages named in the Doomsday Book.

Our ship joined the 9th Minesweeper Squadron and served mainly in the Persian Gulf, ending its days by decommissioning in 1975.

A painting of the village made and presented to the ship by a villager, Miss Muriel Cooke, was hung in the wardroom, and is now on display in the Victoria Hall, along with the ship’s bell, which for a period was hung in The Crown and used to ring ‘time’ for last orders. The ship’s ensign hangs in St Nicholas Church.

Since retiring, the crew members and their ladies have been celebrating reunion weekends here at five-year intervals. The last five occasions are recorded in the Victoria Hall’s HMS Kemerton Corner, together with the bell, Miss Cooke’s painting, and a painting of the ship and a certificate presented to the village to mark its affiliation with the Ton Class Association.

The late Bernard Church, our former postmaster, was made an honorary member of the Association for his tireless work in promoting our friendship.

The ship’s company have accepted our invitation to hold their reunion on the fourth weekend in June so that they can form the opening event at the Kemerton Country Fair on the Park on Saturday 23rd.

There is also a special service at St Nicholas Church on the Sunday 24th at 11am. It is hoped that both these occasions will be attended by a large number of villagers from Kemerton and other villages roundabout.

Further details will be announced in forthcoming weeks. A golf match with some of the visitors is being organised by Peter James.

If any of you, perhaps knowing some of the sailors, have ideas for their entertainment, please contact Ian McLeish at The Old Chapel, or on 01386 725404.

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