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Remembrance 2019: Merchant Navy's Sunday service at Tower Hill for those who perished at sea

PUBLISHED: 17:54 10 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:56 11 November 2019

Merchant Navy Sunday Remembrance at Trnity Square. Picture: Mike Brooke

Merchant Navy Sunday Remembrance at Trnity Square. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Hundreds packed the Merchant Navy's own Sunday Remembrance at the Seamen's memorial today from the Armed Forces and members of the public.

Remembering those lost at sea when the nation was at war. Picture: Mike BrookeRemembering those lost at sea when the nation was at war. Picture: Mike Brooke

The minute's silence fell at Trinity Square on Tower Hill at 11am, the precise moment as the nation's Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

It followed the bells of All Saint's Tower Hill ringing out in tune the seafarers' Eternal Father Strong to Save hymn traditionally associated with the maritime services and those in peril on the sea.

It was also one of the hymns sung by VIP guests and the public who packed the square opposite the Tower of London in an emotional 40-minute service.

Jim Fitzpatrick... with the Parliamentary wreath at Trinity Square in his last duty as Poplar & Limedhouse MP. Picture: Mike BrookeJim Fitzpatrick... with the Parliamentary wreath at Trinity Square in his last duty as Poplar & Limedhouse MP. Picture: Mike Brooke

Among the VIPs was Jim Fitzpatrick laying a wreath from Parliament, having stepped down as the Poplar MP after 22 years when the Commons dissolved on Wednesday.

"This is my last official role as MP to commemorate all those who lost their lives at sea," he told the East London Advertiser at the ceremony.

"Remembrance Sunday is always emotional for me, having been in the fire service for 23 years before I was an MP and attending funerals of comrades who fell protecting London, the sacrifice they made so that the rest of us survive."

We shall remember them... those who died in war so that the nation shall survive. Picture: Mike BrookeWe shall remember them... those who died in war so that the nation shall survive. Picture: Mike Brooke

Much of the Merchant Navy memorial is still covered by hoarding from the repair and renovation being carried out by the War Graves Commission.

"The stonework is coming up beautifully," the former MP and firefighter added. "This is something to be proud of in this part of east London."

Mr Fitzpatrick met the current fire chief for Tower Hamlets at the service, borough commander Richard Tapp who laid a wreath for the London Fire Brigade.

British Sailors' Society veteran Michael Westhead lowers the colours for comrades lost at sea in war. Picture: Mike BrookeBritish Sailors' Society veteran Michael Westhead lowers the colours for comrades lost at sea in war. Picture: Mike Brooke

Commander Tapp's own grandfather served in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War which also took its toll of firemen during the Blitz, especially in the East End around the docks.

His role includes reassuring families living today in tower blocks following criticism of the London Fire Brigade during the inquiry into the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in west London.

Cmdr Tapp told the Advertiser: "Tower Hamlets is a world within a borough that has many tower blocks. We're constantly out with our crews reassuring the public where we need to about incidents because of anxieties following Grenfell Tower."

Speaker of Tower Hamlets Council Victoria Obaze with Mayor John Biggs at Trinity Square Remembrance. Picture: Mike BrookeSpeaker of Tower Hamlets Council Victoria Obaze with Mayor John Biggs at Trinity Square Remembrance. Picture: Mike Brooke

Also attending the Trinity Square Remembrance was the Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs, his chief executive at the town hall Will Tuckley, opposition councillor Peter Golds and the Speaker of the Council Victoria Obaze.

Other Sunday Remembrance serves in the East End were held at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in Mile End, St Anne's Church in Limehouse, Christ Church in Manchester Road and St Luke's in Alpha Grove in the Isle of Dogs.

A service was also held at Bethnal Green Gardens at the site of the worst wartime civilian disaster in 1943 when in an air-raid shelter accident crushed 173 people, including many children.

For those who perished on the sea. Picture: Mike BrookeFor those who perished on the sea. Picture: Mike Brooke

But the Merchant Navy memorial marks the 50,000 seafarers who have no grave but the sea.

Their only commemoration is at Tower Hill. Every ship that went down and the names of every seafarer who perished are recorded on its tablets in stone.

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