On the 10 May 1918, HMS Vindictive was sunk at the entrance of Ostend harbour in Belgium. The aim of its mission was to block the harbour to prevent German submarines from entering or leaving, but was sadly sunk before it could be strategically positioned.
On 10 May 2018, I travelled to Ostend to commemorate those who died on the ship, including my great-great-uncle Commander Alfred Godsal, as well as the other brave men who died on the ship. Alfred was only 33 years old, and the youngest to die for his country was only 18. The morning was spent at a memorial service in front of the bow of the ship, which was recovered and set up as a monument dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives. The British ambassador Allison Rose made an address, and there were representatives of the Belgian king and the American, Canadian, and German embassies present. In the afternoon we were invited to a rededication ceremony to honour the life of Stoker Petty Officer Charles McDonald, whose body had only recently been identified and had lain anonymous for almost 100 years. The service was read by the Reverend Scott Shackleton, RN, deputy chaplain of the fleet, in a touching and heartfelt ceremony.
On the 11th we sailed past the bow of the Vindictive in a 1920s barque and lowered our sails to salute those who had fallen.
This emotional event really opened my eyes to the sadness of conflict, and made me realise how lucky we are that we live in a Europe free from the horrors and brutality of war.
Image credit: Imperial War Museum