Updated: Feb 4, 2021
The Mayor and Mayoress of Southend on the 15th of October will be unveiling a memorial to commemorate the brave men, women and children who served aboard HMS Leigh in WW2 on the 75th Anniversary of the Paying Off of Southend Pier.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions it will only be possible to have a small group at the initial commemoration but any visitor to Southend Pier can pay their respects. Everyone is invited to stand tall at the plaque and say thanks to those who survived those dark and difficult days. Any photographs or words of thanks sent to the HMS Leigh Team and Southend Pier will be included in a remembrance gallery to represent the Southend community.
Cllr Kevin Robinson, Cabinet Member for Business, Culture & Tourism says:
“We have been pleased to continue to find ways to commemorate this year’s anniversaries on the Pier with Blade Education and there has been great success with virtual activity remembering 75 years since the end of WW2. We are still working together to find a safe event to deliver during next spring and in the meantime this plaque allows physical visits to link with the anniversary of the Pier’s return to its civilian role.”
At the beginning of WW2 in 1939 Southend Pier became a Royal Navy shore base renamed HMS Leigh to take charge of all shipping in out of the Thames and the Medway into London. On October 15th, 1945, the Royal Navy handed back HMS Leigh to the people of Southend. By flying a commissioning pennant or masthead pennant, like the ones flown from the masthead of a warship, a Pier became a shore base.
The first convoys of the war came and went from HMS Leigh and the waters off Southend Pier saw ships carrying coal, oil, wood, food, goods and supplies for the heart of the Allied War effort. 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, HMS Leigh stood watch and those who served both military and civilian are remembered by the unveiling of a plaque to their memory and a service of commemoration on the 15th October 2020 at 1200.
When the bombs were dropping and the bullets flying HMS Leigh marshalled thousands of ships and millions of troops together with the fuel for tanks, shells for artillery, bullets for rifles alongside the uniforms, food and supplies necessary to keep the Allied forces fighting for the freedom of us all.
During the dark days of World War 2, from Dunkirk and the Blitz to D-Day and the fall of Berlin HMS Leigh stood solid in the cold waters of the North Sea as the Guardian of the Thames and the Sentry post of London. The commemoration is being organised by the HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames project which has received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Arts Council and private donations to bring the community together to remember those who gave their all to defend their county and to gather the stories of wartime Southend so that they are not forgotten.
HMS Leigh Project Officer Alastair Deacon said, “We ask everyone to stand tall for HMS Leigh and remember those who lived and died during WW2. Just as people in 1939-1945 made it through a terrible conflict, they prove how resilient people can be and how it is possible for us to make it through difficult times as a community in 2020.”
Covid 19 restrictions apply – photographs will be available to all outlets from 12:30pm.