Zeebrugge - Herald of Free Enterprise - 20 years!

I find it hard to believe but it is 20 years since the Herald sank.

If I am correct, several Servicemen based in Germany died that awful night.

BBC report

In Memoriam.



I got off the very same ferry that afternoon on my way to my first posting at Gutersloh. By the time I got there, the ship had turned round, left port and sank.
I seem to remember there was somebody from Hobart Barracks Detmold who was on that ferry and perished in the tragedy.



I had just collected my new car in Dover and was on my way back to Detmold when the Herald fell over. I'd blagged a day off as one of my colleagues was going on leave and gave me a lift, despite my flight commander wanting me to wait 24 hours. Had he won, I'd have been on board.

When I got back to Detmold I found myself on standby to fly back to Zeebrugge with an SIB team warned off for assisting in the identification of service personnel.

20 years - where has the time gone?
I was delayed by work that afternoon because I was on leave for 3 weeks and wanted to clear my desk. The missus and I were driving through Belgium as the emergency vehicles started rushing past us. We slowed and discussed leaving the autobahn because we thought there must have been a major crash ahead of us. But we carried on because we were, by then, close to Zeebrugge.

The port was a mess. Without much information ("all we can tell you is that there has been a major incident"), we decided that we would find a hotel and stay the night rather than try to work our way around the area. We drove away, found a hotel and watched the scenes unfold in front of us on the TV. I tried to ring my unit and our families to tell them there had been a major incident but we were OK. All the telephone lines were engaged (no mobile 'phones in those days) and I couldn't get through.

In the morning, we drove to Calais and joined the huge queue. Eventually, we managed to contact both our families and my unit - who were very happy to remove us from the missing list! One thing that sticks in my memory is the number of BFG registered cars in the carpark. There could have been an awful lot more Service personnel on that ferry than there were.

Ever since, I have never stayed below once the ferry starts moving; I am always on deck.... just in case!


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