A deeply moving ceremony was held in Dover today to mark the 31st anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. The families and friends of those who lost their lives and many Dovorians were in attendance at the remembrance service at St Mary's Church.
Myself, Dover mayor Neil Rix and Dover District Council chairman Sue Chandler were also among those paying their respects. A roll-call was read out of the names of the 193 people who lost their lives when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized off Zeebrugge on March 6th 1987.
The service, led by Rev Mark Warner of the Sailors' Society, included hymns 'Abide With Me' and 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save'. An acapella version of 'Amazing Grace' was sung by Steve Erickson in front of the hushed congregation. Rev Bill McCrea, who was the Sailors' Society Port Chaplain in 1987, spoke of the "heartbreak and agony" felt by the families of the victims.
He remembered how he had given the first service to mark the tragedy three decades ago at Dover seafront, when those gathered had sung 'Abide With Me' in full voice. Rev McCrea praised the Dover community's response to the disaster and said that the victims will never be forgotten.
The ceremony was closed with a benediction from Rev John Walker, St Mary's Church team Rector. The service was followed by tea and biscuits, before the families of the victims set off to cast flowers into the sea from Admiralty Pier.
This was a deeply moving service. Yet again, as they do every year, the people of Dover came out in large numbers to support the families of the victims. We will never forget those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy. We will always be there to care for the families and loved ones who live on.
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