Lasting memorial unveiled to Sidmouth sailor

Family delighted with CWGC headstone for war victim Donald.

FAMILY gathered around the graveside of Royal Navy rating Donald Channing on Tuesday to see the unveiling of a lasting stone memorial erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

“It was extremely emotional. When the flag was pulled off the stone I welled up,” said Diana Tapley from Sidbury, who grew up knowing Donald’s parents, George and Ada, well.

“Donald would have been my great uncle,” said Diana, who described the short memorial dedication service, conducted by the Rector, the Reverend Prebendary David James, as “wonderful”.

Chris Pink, vice president of the Royal British Legion, flanked by standard bearers John Hayes (RBL) and Bernie Holland, Royal Naval Old Comrades, unveiled the white headstone to ordinary seaman D C Channing, which is decorated with a carved anchor.

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Members of the RNOC, including chairman Richard Long, RBL members, with chairman Dave O’Connor and representatives of East Devon District Council, including vice chairman, Councillor Frances Newth, were at Sidmouth cemetery to watch.

It was Margaret Eaton from Sidmouth, who knew Donald while growing up, who noticed the rotten state of the wooden cross; made and carved by his grieving father George, on his grave.

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She alerted Tom King, who worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for 40 years, and he brought it to the commission’s attention.

The CWGC contacted EDDC licensing officer John Loveridge, who liaised with them and Dave O’Connor, to get a memorial in place.

That was more than two years ago. Mr Loveridge was at Tuesday’s service, held almost exactly 70 years from the date Donald was killed.

Margaret said: “I’m glad he’s been recognised and his grave will be looked after by the CWGC. There are about 36 other war graves here.”

Donald’s second cousins, Pat Collings from Seaton and Hazel Fayter from Sidcliffe, as well as his great great niece Melanie Squance (Channing), were delighted to see a lasting memorial to the naval rating, killed in action aged 19.

“I think it is a great day, it’s lovely to think they (CWGC) have done something,” said Pat.

“I used to stand here from the age of six and be told about Donald the hero by my mother,” added Hazel. “We were always very proud of him.”

Chris Beavis from Eastern Town, whose family lived next to the Channings, was also at the dedication service, and carried a wooden carpenter’s gauge engraved with Donald’s name. Donald was killed aged 19.

Dave O’Connor thanked Kings Nursery, Exmouth, for donating turf to tidy up the grave after the stone was erected.

He said: “I was very pleased with the whole morning, it was nice to see quite a few people there for the final send off.”

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