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Tributes paid at 50th anniversary of marine cadets tragedy

A SPECIAL service and parade was held yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy in which a group of marine cadets were knocked down and killed by a double-decker bus in Dock Road, Chatham. The event was staged in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh.

More than 250 people gathered in St George's Church in Chatham Maritime for a moving service which paid tribute to the lives which were lost on Tuesday, December 4, 1951. The bus ran into the back of a column of 52 cadets who were marching down Dock Road on their way to HMS Pembroke Royal Navy barracks. They were due to watch a boxing tournament. When the bus finally came to a halt, 24 cadets, aged between nine and 13, were dead or dying.

Yesterday, the church was packed to the rafters with loved ones, members of the Chatham Marine Cadets and Royal Marines during a service of dedication and remembrance.

The congregation sang their hearts out during the 45-minute service, while the Rev Andrew Huckett, who led the service, said in an emotional speech: "We will remember the boys by name and also the survivors of the accident. And let us pray for the many grieving families and relatives who were affected by this tragedy.

"Fifty years ago a shadow was cast over the Medway Towns and a number of the fellow cadets who were injured are here today. The events of what happened 50 years ago cannot, and will not, be forgotten."

He went on to praise members of the emergency services and dockyard staff who rushed to the scene in 1951. The president of the Chatham Marine Cadets, Col Paul Cautly, also spoke a few words of comfort before the congregation moved outside for the unveiling of the memorial plaque on the dockyard wall in Dock Road.

He said: "Being a Royal Marine is a state of mind. It is more like a calling than a profession. Once a marine, always a marine."

Albert Arnold, 77, had served nine years in the Royal Marines when the accident happened.

He said: "I remember the accident very well, even though our unit was from Sidcup. I had just come out of the service when it happened, but today's service has been very good and very fitting. I have never seen so many marines in all my life, but it is nice that so many have come from all over the place."

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