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Act of remembrance - members of Brightlingsea Royal Naval Association

WW2 sailors remembered in poignant ceremony

Members of Brightlingsea Royal Naval Association (RNA) have held a ceremony to remember crewmen from a Motor Torpedo Boat who died while it was berthed in the town during WWII.

In March 1945, MTB 667 was berthed at Brightlingsea, which was then a naval base known as HMS Nemo.  One night some of the crew remained on-board – but the next morning three were dead and the rest were seriously ill, having been poisoned by fumes leaking from the boat's fire extinguisher system.

Each year, on the anniversary of the March 5 tragedy, the town's RNA remember the sailors with a poignant graveside ceremony at All Saints' Church, where two of the three are buried. The opportunity was also taken to remember all wartime casualties buried at Brightlingsea and elsewhere, with a special mention for the citizens of the Ukraine. This year, members were joined by representatives from RNA Area 5 and RNA Branches Rayleigh, Colchester and Weeley.

Mike Fletcher, the secretary of Brightlingsea RNA, writes:  Like many small ports around the UK, which had small craft facilities during both World Wars, Brightlingsea was taken over by the War Department and called HMS Nemo.  All ship and boatyards were employed in the production, maintenance and support of small craft.  One such vessel was the D Class Motor Torpedo Boat 667.  The D Class were sizeable vessels, some 115 feet in length.
The newly-constructed MTB 667 had been brought to Brightlingsea in early March 1943 from her builder’s yard at Burnham on Crouch for acceptance trials and completion before joining her flotilla and departure abroad. Most of her crew had been sent on leave and just a duty crew remained on board.  The first sailor to go aboard on the morning of March 5 found, to his horror, that some of the crew were dead and the rest very ill.  Medical assistance brought a naval party which included Surgeon Lt. Haywood who found three men dead from some unknown cause and others in poor shape.  The bodies were removed to the mortuary and the sick men to the Sick Quarters at ‘Ashmore’ in Church Road.
Subsequent investigation revealed that the casualties were a result of inhalation of methyl bromide, a toxic gas which had leaked from the boat’s fire extinguishing system.

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