Original post : 5 Sep 2017

Centennial commemoration - Sunday 10th September

Royal Naval Association Chatham - Universities at Medway hosts centenary commemoration for war dead   

The deaths of 131 naval men killed during a bombing raid over Chatham during the First World War will be commemorated in a special ceremony at the Universities at Medway campus.

The service and Parade , organised by the Royal Naval Association in partnership with the universities, will take place on Sunday 10 September , marking 100 years since the fatal raid took place.  The outside service will be conducted on the site of the. Drill Hall Library, adjacent to Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime.    

Those attending will include The Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Viscount De L’Isle; the Rear Admiral John Kingwell CBE, OBE, Deputy Commandant, Royal College of Defence Studies; Mayor of Medway, and senior representatives from the Royal Navy, The Army, The Royal Canadian Navy, other armed services and organisations.

Music will be provided by HMS Collingwood Royal Marines band, while the parade will feature Serving RN Personal, RN Veterans, Merchant Navy Personnel, Standard Bearers , Sea Cadets and Royal Marine cadets, among others. There will also be wreath laying, from descendants of those who died , planting of crosses, the reading of names of those who died in the tragedy and hymns. A march past will finish the proceedings.  

On the night of 3 September 1917, there were 698 men either asleep or resting in their hammocks in the Drill Shed, which formed part of the Royal Navy’s HMS Pembroke barracks at Chatham. The Drill Shed was often used as a temporary overflow dormitory when the barrack accommodation blocks were full.

The men lost their lives when the building was bombed by German Gotha airplanes. It suffered a direct hit as the planes dropped nearly fifty bombs over Gillingham and Chatham. Contemporary accounts tell a terrible story: many were fatally injured from the explosion, with some victims being cut to pieces from the falling pieces of glass from the roof.

The attack was one of the first night-time bombing raids in the history of warfare. The hands of the clock in the tower were frozen at 11.12, marking the exact time the bombs hit the building. 

Today, the building is known as the Drill Hall Library: a state-of-the-art learning resource centre and one of the showpiece buildings of the Universities at Medway campus, serving the students of Greenwich, Kent and Canterbury Christ Church universities.

The ceremony will take place from 10.30am. The public, and ex serving personnel are welcome to attend and watch the service and parade from a designated position from Central Avenue and on the Parade ground itself, it is suggested that the public arrive at about 10.00 am.  

After the event visitors will be welcome to tour the facilities of the former HMS Pembroke site and see how investment by the universities of Greenwich and Kent has both preserved and brought new life into the former barracks, including the Drill Hall itself. Guests will be able to enjoy the former swimming pool building , now the students' Cafe-Bar,the former motor pool building as well as visit the University of Greenwich's facilities on Upper Pembroke including the historic Ward Room and some of the state of the art laboratories hidden behind the Edwardian facade.

In addition ,Canterbury Christ Church University warmly invites members of the public to its state of the art health care Simulation Suite in Rowan Williams Court where students and staff dressed in period uniform , will be displaying health care in 1917 and 2017.

Visitors will find out about the types of injuries sustained by those who were in the Drill Shed at the time of the bombing , how these injuries would be treated, where and by whom.  Fast forward to 2017, you will then be able to see how these injuries would be treated today, and how education is preparing students for healthcare careers now and in the future

For more information contact:  medway.campusdirectorsecretary@canterbury.ac.uk

There is also a beautiful poppy display representing those who died.  The poppies were personally sewn by around 40-50 keen knitters, some from the University, the RNA , and St Mary's Active Retirement Association on St Mary's Island.  

There will be other exhibits in the Drill Hall including a WW1 Musical Exhibition.  

RNA Chatham, adds: “This is about paying homage to the men who lost their lives, those fatally injured, and the countless many whose brave actions attempted to save the injured personnel .Unfortunately their names will never be known. It is also about remembering Chatham’s heritage as a naval town, and showing the world how proud we are of our distinguished history.  As it marks the centennial of the bombing, this ceremony gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay our respects.”

Any branches S/M's requiring any more information about the event on 10 September, please email Chris Stout, Secretary, RNA Chatham, at jim@baydrift.com.  




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