September 22, 2015
Seafront plaques unveiled in Burnham-On-Sea to mark wartime link

Two new plaques were unveiled on Burnham-On-Sea's seafront on Saturday (September 26th) to mark 75 years since America gave Britain 50 destroyers to fight Hitler’s German navy - one of which was named HMS Burnham.

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.

The plaques marking the occasion were formally unveiled on the North Esplanade opposite the Royal Clarence Hotel by Captain Michael Garrick of the USA Navy, Burnham resident Neville Jones OBE, and Cllr Ian Dyer 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.

Sedgemoor District Chairman Ian Dyer added: "We were delighted to support these special plaques and I am pleased that we contributed £2,000 of funding from individual funds to allow the ceremony to go ahead despite an earlier grant decision."

Burnham Sea Cadets with Captain Michael Garrick at the seafront unveiling

Two ceremonial flags kept at Burnham Hospital were viewed during the visit

A ship's bell from HMS Broadway went on display during a civic reception held at The Princess

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

Sedgemoor District Council's Chairman and Past Chairman were present

Neville Jones presented the Captain with a painting of the lighthouse by town artist Michael Squire, pictured here


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