HMS Penelope Association
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The PENELOPE Association was established in 1987 to bring together those who had served in the Royal Navy cruiser of that name (1936-44). The following year it was unanimously agreed that the association should also include those who served on the frigate (F127) from 1963. In this way it became the means of uniting all those who had served on either ship. The membership is now starting to reflect this. Although most of the members from the wartime cruiser have passed away, there are still a number of survivors from 1944 and more and more of those who served on the frigate (sadly now gone) are now joining. This is something the association is rightly proud of, and fully illustrates the close bond that will always exist between those who served in the Royal Navy, irrespective of when that may have been, and typifies the words of Sir Francis Drake "All of one Company"
Among the full members who served on the frigate, a number are still serving in the navy today and the association is rightly proud of this.
Also the association is delighted to have among its members relatives served in one of the two ships. Some of them are children, grand children, brothers and sister of members of the association and some are relatives of men who died when the Penelope was sunk on that fateful day in February 1944. Others just have fond memories of the Penelope for their own reasons and keep the memories alive by just being a member of the association.
The association also has strong links with the Blackpool Sea Cadet unit "TS Penelope". This name was chosen for the unit because of the adoption of HMS Penelope (cruiser) during the war years. The link between the association and the town of Blackpool was further strengthened through the happy relationship for many years with the local branch of the Royal Naval Association, which met in the Penelope Mess at the Stretton Hotel North Promenade Blackpool. Unfortunately the RNA in Blackpool no longer exists.
The association holds an annual reunion weekend in Blackpool, normally the weekend nearest the 18th February, that being the date in 1944 the cruiser was sunk off Anzio with the loss of 417 lives. Among those that died was the Commanding Officer Capt. G. D. Belben, the association is very proud to have the son of Capt. Belben, David as a Honorary Vice President. David is an enthusiastic and valued supporter of the association. The Association is also very proud to have Commodore Paul Sutermeister; a former Commanding Officer of Penelope as it’s President.
'Constantia Et Fide' (With Constancy and Faith)
Blackpool Adopts Penelope
In 1941 the Admiralty allocated the cruiser HMS Penelope to the town of Blackpool as the objective of the town's Warship week, when it was hoped to raise at least £1, million.
The week commenced on the 29th November organised by the War Savings Committee and by the closure on the 6th December the townsfolk had raised a magnificent amount of £1,506, 746. The front of the Town Hall had been transformed into the deck of a warship, manned each day by cadets from the local unit of the Sea Cadet Corps. To commemorate this generosity of the town of Blackpool, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty presented Blackpool with a two-foot high plaque bearing the badge of HMS Penelope. Today, the plaque has a prominent place close to the Council Chamber in the Town Hall.
For its part, Blackpool took the adoption of Penelope very seriously, and numerous organisations and individuals sent gifts to the ship. At Christmas 1943, the Mayoress (Mrs J. Parkinson) sent parcels to all the ship's company - nearly 600 in all. In addition the Civic Authority presented a bronze plaque bearing the crest of Blackpool and a set of silver plates to the ship.
On the 9th July 1942, Captain A.D. Nicholl CBE. DSO. RN. who had been her captain during her time in Malta, visited Blackpool to thank the Mayor, Corporation and towns people for adopting Penelope. Following an inspection of the Guard of Honour provided by the Sea Cadets, the Mayor, (Alderman D.J. Bailey J.P.) welcomed Captain Nicholl and said how proud the town was to be associated with such a ship as magnificent as Penelope is. In reply, Captain Nicholl spoke of his pride in Penelope and thanked Blackpool for looking after the ship and crew so well. Before the Penelope sailed again to the Mediterranean a Civic party was entertained on board Penelope at Portsmouth, but the greatest cheer of the ship's company were reserved for the comedian George Formby.
When the news came of the loss of Penelope, the Mayor, Councillor Jacob Parkinson JP. spoke for the whole town when he sent a telegram of condolence to the Admiralty and expressed the heart-felt sympathy of the townspeople of Blackpool for the relatives and dependants of those who had lost their lives.
Nearly twenty years later, Blackpool renewed its association with HMS Penelope when the town was formally invited to adopt the new frigate. The Mayor and Civic representatives were present at the Commissioning on the 31st October 1963. This association continued throughout the lifetime of the frigate in the service of the Royal Navy (nearly 30 years) and a number of interchange visits were made by the Civic representatives. On 15th July 1990, the Mayor of Blackpool (Councillor Alfred Rhodes) formally invited the Commanding Officer of Penelope, Commander Nigel Bray RN to receive on behalf of the ship the Freedom of the Borough of Blackpool, at a ceremony on Princess Parade, Blackpool.
Since the transfer of the Penelope to Ecuador, the Freedom scroll has now been returned to the Town Hall where it will remain, along side the Penelope's ship's bell, as a permanent reminder of the great friendship between the Town and the ship.