SENIOR cabinet minister Eric Pickles was among those present at Stedham Parish Church on Monday when a special service of re-dedication was held for first world war hero Commander Norman Holbrook.
The event was organised by the Victoria Cross Trust which is carrying out restoration work on the graves of Victoria Cross holders throughout the country.
Commander Holbrook who lived in Stedham, died in July 1976 and was buried at St James’ Church in the village. He was the first naval VC of the first world war and the first submariner VC.
On Monday, the Victoria Cross Trust’s mason restored Commander Holbrook’s headstone and volunteers helped to tidy the church grounds.
The re-dedication service then took place in the church and around the grave, attended by Mr Pickles, senior ranks of the Royal Navy and members of Commander Holbrook’s family as well as Stedham villagers who knew him.
The service was conducted by Stedham vicar the Rev Roger Williamson and chaplain of the fleet the Rev Scott J Brown. Representatives of the Australian Navy also took part.
“It was a lovely service and very moving,” said Stedham villager Caroline Frost.
Commander Holbrook was 26, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, when on December 13, 1914 in the Dardanelles, he was in command of the submarine HMS B11.
Despite the treacherous current, he dived under five rows of mines and torpedoed and sank the Ottoman ironclad Mesudiye, which was guarding the minefield.
In spite of being attacked by gunfire and torpedo boats, he succeeded in bringing the B11 back to the Mediterranean. By the time they got back to safety, the B11 had been submerged for nine hours.
The name of the New South Wales Eastern Riverina town of Germanton was changed to Holbrook in honour of his heroism.
Page of pictures in the Midhurst and Petworth Observer Thursday, July 24