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General News26th September 2023

Freedom of Medway awarded to Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

The highest civic distinction, the Freedom of Medway, has been officially granted to the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust (CHDT) and Chatham Branch of the Royal Naval Association (RNA).

At a Special Council meeting in July 2022 Medway councillors agreed to award honorary freedom of the borough to both charities to recognise the contribution their members made to the Falklands conflict, 40 years ago.

On Sunday, 24 September, around 100 people including Falklands veterans and Dockyard staff who worked on ships used in the Falklands conflict, watched the formal presentation of two Freedom scrolls to Dennis Potter, Chairman of Chatham RNA and Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL, Chairman of the CHDT at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

The honorary freedom of the borough is the highest civic distinction that can be given to individuals or collective bodies in recognition of outstanding service or civic association, ensuring that their memory is maintained within the community.

The Falklands campaign had great significance in Medway; in 1982 the civilian workforce at Chatham Dockyard worked tirelessly to prepare ships and submarines in support of the fleet including HMS ENDURANCE, HMS MINERVA, HMS PLYMOUTH, HMS VALIANT, HMS WARSPITE, HMS CONQUEROR, HMS COOURAGEOUS and HMS RHYL.

The CHDT was awarded the Freedom of Medway on behalf of the dockyard workforce in recognition of their service.

The Royal Naval Association provides social activities and welfare services to all serving naval personnel and veterans, including reservists, and their dependants. It is the biggest collective group of the Royal Naval veterans and serving personnel and provides access to a lifelong community of companionship, resilience, comradeship and unity.

The Chatham branch currently has 80 members, three of which served during the Falklands Conflict, two on HMS INVINCIBLE and one on HMS PENELOPE.

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Vince Maple, said: “I was delighted to present the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and Chatham Branch of the Royal Naval Association with the Freedom of Medway. It is so important to honour the men and women who have served our country and made a number of sacrifices, along with their families. As my Dad served in the Falklands on HMS Penelope and was an active member of the RNA this recognition also has a very personal poignancy.  It was great to see RNA members, Falklands veterans and ex-dockyard workers at the presentation.

“We are incredibly proud of Medway’s rich history with our armed forces and the Royal Navy has a special place in the hearts of Medway’s residents. On behalf of Medway, granting the Freedom of Medway to both of these fantastic organisations expresses our formal thanks for their service.”

Dennis Potter, Chairman of the Royal Naval Association Chatham, said: “We would like to thank Medway Council for bestowing this award upon us. It is an honour for us to receive this in recognition of those who served in the Falklands War. 

“We are extremely grateful to all and owe a debt of gratitude also to those who have been members of our branch over the years working tirelessly to keep our valued members supported and socially active by our committee. It was a time when all of sudden The Royal Navy, Royal Marines, The Army and Merchant Navy became operational in a theatre previously unknown to them and personally unchartered, which unfortunately cost the lives of 255 people, who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

“We were pleased that four of our RNA members, who are Falklands’ veterans, were at the service on Sunday. Sadly, we recently lost Shipmate and Falklands’ veteran P.O Mr Chris Maple RN Rtd who served 24 years in the Royal Navy and was serving on board HMS Penelope. Our sincere condolences and comforting thoughts are offered by us all to his family.

“We also would like to thank the dockyard for allowing us to invite the RNA Extended family, to share the day with us, to reflect on memories of a time gone by, but in many ways still very much with us.”

Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL, Chair, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, said: “As a former Naval Officer and as the current Chairman of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust it was very much an honour to accept the Freedom of Medway on behalf of the former dockyard workforce. Chatham Dockyard played a significant role in the Falklands War and being awarded this distinction appropriately recognises the enormous contribution of the workers who supported the Royal Navy during the conflict.”

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