Armed Forces Day on 27 June is an opportunity for the nation to show its respect for members of the British Armed Forces, past and present, and to share their stories of sacrifice and courage.
One such veteran is Derek Banham, who entered the Royal Navy during the Second World War, at the age of 18. In 1945, he joined a newly built ship, HMS Loch Craggie, as a Seaman Gunner. Equipped with the latest weapons and technology, Derek recalls that she was “the Rolls-Royce of ships”.
Derek’s ship joined the Battle of the Atlantic and was tasked with hunting down an enemy U-boat which had torpedoed seven ships. Churchill had given specific orders for this U-boat to be sunk. It took Derek’s ship three days to chase down and sink the submarine. Its destruction still haunts him now.
Following Victory in Europe, Derek’s ship was sent to fight in the Far East and, when the War ended, to the Dutch East Indies. The British government awarded his crew the Malaya and Borneo medal and Derek proudly wears The National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association badge. He commented that: “From Admiral to Seaman Gunner, we were all shipmates – Once Navy, always Navy.”
Today Derek lives in The Royal Star & Garter Home in Solihull. Despite the high level of care he now needs, he and other residents will be attending the raising of the Armed Forces Day Flag to show support for fellow veterans of the British Armed Forces.