September 30, 2015
Prime Minister gives his support to Burnham's new seafront plaques

The Prime Minister has sent a personally-signed letter giving his backing to the unveiling of two new maritime history plaques that were unveiled on Burnham-On-Sea's seafront at the weekend.

David Cameron sent the letter to Neville Jones, who led Saturday's ceremony to unveil the seafront plaques, marking 75 years since America gave Britain 50 destroyers to fight Hitler’s German navy, one of which was named HMS Burnham.

Neville told "It was such a lovely event. It was wonderful to have Captain Michael Garrick of the USA Navy along to perform the unveiling and to have a letter from the Prime Minister giving his backing to the plaques was just superb."

All 50 of the destroyers, which were known as 'Gift Horses', were renamed to link towns in the USA with towns in England, and HMS Burnham linked Burnham in Illinois, America with Burnham-On-Sea.

Prime Minister David Cameron wrote: "I want to extend my admiration in honour of the personnel and the 50 First World War destroyers acquired by Sir Winston Churchill form our close American Allies during the Second World War. I join you in paying respect to those who have given their lives in defence of the freedoms which we hold dear today."

The plaques marking the occasion were formally unveiled on the North Esplanade opposite the Royal Clarence Hotel by Captain Garrick and Cllr Ian Dyer, Chairman of Sedgemoor District Council.

The ceremony, held in brilliant sunshine, was followed by a visit to BARB to hear about Burnham's maritime charity, and then Burnham Hospital to see two ceremonial maritime flags, and a reception at The Princess Theatre.

Those present heard that seven of the destroyers given to Britain were torpedoed and one was mined, but HMS Burnham spent the better part of four years escorting convoys across the Atlantic.

In 1942, HMS Burnham was formally adopted by Burnham-On-Sea and in 1944 a contingent of the ship's company visited the town and were well entertained - a visit to be repeated many times over the years.

Burnham war veteran Neville Jones spent many months researching the destroyers' history and overseeing the design of the plaques. He told "There are no records in the National Memorial Arboretum or any monument to these ships which played such a vital role in the Atlantic convoys which is why I suggested these plaques are introduced."

Captain Garrick said it had been his "honour and humble privelege" to unveil these special plaques and thanked all those involved.

Dozens of people attended the unveiling of the plaques on the town's sea wall


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