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Centenary commemoration held to remember lives lost on HMS Drake

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Mayor Joan Baird Layes a wreath on behalf of CCGBC at Ballycastle War Memorial to mark the sinking of HMS Drake at Church Bay Rathlin Island on 100 years ago today. KEVIN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

The wreckage of HMS Drake has lay in the waters off Rathlin Island for 100 years.

She floundered on 2nd October 1917 following a torpedo attack from a German U-boat. 18 men on board lost their lives. A South Cardinal buoy marks the spot where she lies in Church Bay.

A service to remember those who died took place at Ballycastle War Memorial on Monday (2nd October 2017). It had a special connection to events which unfolded a century ago, as among those in attendance was Margaret Patterson. Her uncle James Patterson, an Eng Rm Artificer, was lost with HMS Drake.
She said: It’s very emotional to be here on the exact anniversary. Over the weekend, I visited Rathlin Island for the first time where everyone was so kind and welcoming. I visited the school to see their model of HMS Drake, and the whole visit has been hugely important to me. The buoy which marks the wreck is the only one in the area. It’s very significant for the island and serves as a reminder to everyone about what happened.”

The service in Ballycastle was officiated by Royal Navy chaplain Reverend Rowe along with members of the clergy in Ballycastle. Wreaths were laid by the Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, Joan Christie, along with representatives of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Royal Navy, Royal Naval Association and the Royal British Legion.
The service also remembered lives lost on HMS Brisk. She was hit by a mine from the same U-boat while en route to offer assistance to the stricken Drake. 31 men died while another passed away later from his injuries.

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, said: “Today served as a moving reminder about how our area was directly touched by events during World War 1. These sailors lost their lives close to the shores of Rathlin Island, shortly after escorting merchant ships on a convoy across the Atlantic Ocean. The damage inflicted by the German torpedo ended her journey in the Rathlin Sound, where the wreckage has remained ever since. It is a tangible reminder of our past, and an important part of the marine history in this area.

“I was honoured to take part in the service and pay my respects to those who passed away in such tragic circumstances.”

On Rathlin Island, a special event was held in St Thomas’ Church to remember those who died.

Earlier this year, the significance of the HMS Drake wreck was confirmed when it was listed as an historic monument.

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