The meeting opened with Chairman Michael Cochrane back in the chair. He welcomed new member Graham Smith to the Forum and advised of two apologies. A letter of thanks and appreciation had been received from a Tanzanian student Miriam in respect of the Forum’s £100 charitable Christmas donation which would be used to fund her examination expenses.

John Taylor advised the gathering of the sad news of Alan Norton’s death at the age of 83 and spent a few minutes paying tribute to his determination and tenacity despite his disabilities and remarked on the importance membership of the Forum had been to Alan in his later years. He confirmed the details of the Memorial Service at St. Mark’s Church Leeds Road on January 19th at 11 a.m. which he would be attending and which was open to all members who knew Alan and would like to attend.

Today’s Speaker was Mr Alan Pitchfork, a member of Knaresborough Men’s Forum who was giving his first talk to the Forum. His topic “11V.C’s Before Breakfast” would not be about Rorke’s Drift famously popularised in the film Zulu but rather a lesser known but equally gallant World War 1 naval engagement known as the Zeebrugge Raid from April 1918. Alan’s interest in this battle had been stirred by a naval brooch of his grandfather who had served on one of the ships involved H.M.S. Vindictive (but not at the time of this battle) and also on visiting Ostend himself at the turn of this century when he spotted the H.M.S. Vindictive bows situated as a memorial with a plaque commemorating the raid. Time quickly passed as Alan informed and entertained an entranced audience with the background build up to this event which focussed on the enormous loss of British Merchant Shipping by German U Boats and the need for plans to reduce and limit this loss.Facts were shared involving some of the characters involved particularly at high levels in the Admiralty as well as the tremendous detail that went into the planning and logistics required. He advised us of the multitude of ships, ferries and personnel involved including Royal Marines and gave out the key moments of the actual raid itself with all the attendant damage and loss of life. Whilst the raid, whose purpose was to block the Belgian port of Bruges–Zeebrugge and also Ostend, was only partially successful the three pen pictures given out of the 11 V.C’s awarded demonstrated the extraordinary courage and devotion to service of those involved.

Questions asked following the end of the talk demonstrated the Member’s engagement with the topic and the Vote of Thanks was given by Neil Ramshaw on behalf of the 41 attendees.


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