Events to mark Warship Week anniversary in Sleaford

The model of HMS Sheldrake. EMN-170314-123111001
The model of HMS Sheldrake. EMN-170314-123111001

Sleaford Town Council is to mark the 75th anniversary of Warships Week by naming a room in the Town Hall after the ship local residents helped pay for.

The town and district adopted and fundraised the equivalent of almost £6million in support of the embattled Navy, for the Royal Navy corvette, HMS Sheldrake during the Second World War as part of efforts on the Home Front.

Sleaford's links to HMS Sheldrake will form teh backbone of Armed Forces Week commemorations. EMN-170314-115927001

Sleaford's links to HMS Sheldrake will form teh backbone of Armed Forces Week commemorations. EMN-170314-115927001

The townsfolk and residents of Sleaford and East Kesteven collected £134,000 towards the upkeep of HMS Sheldrake. By simply applying inflationary adjustments this amount reaches around £5,632,000 in terms of modern-day purchasing power, which illustrates graphically the dedication, commitment and loyalty shown by local people in support of the war effort.

This is particularly significant as this year’s Armed Forces Day will focus on the Navy.

To mark the anniversary on March 21, a display of memorabilia about the town’s association with HMS Sheldrake will be put on show downstairs at the Town Hall during the week.

This includes a model of the ship, handmade by the crew, two large ship’s crests presented by the Admiralty Board in recognition of Warship Week in Sleaford, the ship’s war diary, a framed photograph of the ship signed by the crew and several other papers relating to the history of the ship and its involvement with the town.

Details will be confirmed at tonight’s Town Council meeting (Wednesday).

One of the organising committee, Coun Adrian Snookes, said a grandson of the last Commanding Officer of the Sheldrake, an airline pilot called Captain Spicer, has the ship’s bell and will be visiting with it for the warship Week event on Tuesday, March 21.

Coun Snookes said: “To me, it is an amazing story. We want people to come and see the model of the ship that was given to us bythe crew and we have lots of pictures and records of interest. We even have a list of those who died serving on her.”

He said: “We should remember those guys who fought at sea and kept our land safe.”

The smaller upstairs room at the Town Hall, where the memorabilia is kept permanently, is proposed to be named the Sheldrake Room, with a ceremony possibly to be held for Armed Forces Day on June 24 when the same exhibition could be displayed again.

Armed Forces Week is Monday, June 19 to Sunday, June 25. This year the Armed Forces Week will include an event in Sleaford Market Place on the official Armed Forces Day, Saturday, June 24, with short act of commemoration and links to HMS Sheldrake, alongside the traditional flag raising ceremony, veteran’s badge presentation and evening of entertainment and shop window decorating competition.

Local children are currently drawing up designs for a poster design competition and nominations are now open for anyone wanting to apply to receive a Veteran’s Badge at the Veterans’ Evening on Friday, June 23.

Further key dates: Friday, April 21: Schools’ Design Competition closes. Friday, May 12: Closing date for Veteran’s Badge applications. Friday, June 16: Judging of the decorated shop windows in Sleaford. Friday, June 16: Closing date for ticket sales to join the Veterans’ evening.

Further details on all of these from NKDC Heritage Assistant Debbie Scott on 01529 414155 or email Debbie_scott@n-kesteven.gov.uk .

FACTFILE:

Regarded as the ‘workhorse of the Navy’, HMS Sheldrake was a built in 1936 as a patrol vessel specially designed for coastal convoy service, launched in 1937 and re-classed as a Corvette, ultimately seeing significant service along the East Coast and in the Channel in escorts, convoys and artillery fire against the German E-Boats and U-Boats.|

Along with her sister ships, she supported the Dunkirk Evacuation, was engaged in mine-laying and mine-sweeping and regularly searched for survivors from sunken ships.|

The crew visited and presented the model which was stored at the council offices and later used as a battering ram in a break in – but subsequently fully restored by the local branch of the Royal Navy Association.|

The Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty also presented the town with the ships crest and both these items are still in the possession of the Town Council. Having survived the war, HMS Sheldrake ended its days in China.|

On February 20, 1942, a month before Sleaford’s Warship Week, the Sleaford Gazette published this message from HMS Sheldrake’s Commander Lt RC Watkins, in a letter to Mr J Welborn: “The Captain, officers and ship’s company of HMS Sheldrake send their best wishes to you. We all appreciate the sacrifices which the figure already attained in your Warship Campaign must have entailed. For our own part we will endeavour to use the arms with which you are supplying us to the greatest advantage. May your Warship Week prove a record one.”