Being ship-shaped proved no obstacle to a South Yorkshire logistics company when it answered a charity plea to carry a replica of a World War 2 aircraft carrier from a Doncaster garage to a museum raising funds to preserve the graves of Britain’s bravest soldiers not killed in action.
Doncaster-based JMS answered a social media appeal to move the 18ft model of HMS Implacable to Ashworth Barracks Museum, a local resource manned entirely by service volunteers supporting #victoriacrosstrust, a charity dedicated to maintaining the often-forgotten final resting places of VC recipients across the world.
A team of volunteers from JMS, a member of the Pallet-Track network, provided an 18-tonne DAF CF truck and trailer with air suspension to cushion the ride, free of charge.
They carefully lifted the aircraft carrier from the garage of former Royal Navy officer David Hill, who had spent the final three years of his life lovingly building the replica.
The volunteers, who consulted both the charity and the family, then shipped the model eight miles to the museum in Cedar Road, Doncaster.
The family did not want the model to suffer the fate of the real HMS Implacable, which was broken up for scrap in the early 50s, after its distinguished career in the latter years of World War 2 in the battles against the Japanese in the Pacific.
Before it was decommissioned, the 32,000-tonne vessel briefly served as an aircraft landing training vessel. The 800ft long carrier was briefly considered for refurbishment, but this was ruled out on cost grounds.
Gary Stapleton, of the Victoria Cross Trust, said: “The family of the late David Hill had offered the model to us in honour of his naval career and passion for model building, because it was just sitting in their garage.
“However, we simply had no way of getting it here. We had enquired about the commercial cost of moving it but it was prohibitive for a charity like ours.
“So, after several months, we resorted to a social media appeal and JMS came to our aid, which was fantastic. We are very grateful. We will now finish off David’s work and we are going to put the model in a special naval display when it is complete,” said Mr Stapleton.
Susan Thomas, from JMS, said: “Our team saw the museum’s appeal on Facebook and we were happy to help free of charge. The intricate model was not only long but had lots of intricate pieces, so we discussed a strategy for its safe movement with the museum and the family.
“We were proud to have supported a local charity by helping to move and preserve this handmade model for the future.”
The museum, which is a former primary school, is one of Yorkshire’s top five tourist destinations. It attracted in excess of 25,000 visitors in 2018, all of whom were guided around the exhibits by the volunteer veterans.
Proceeds from visits go to preserve the graves of VC recipients around the world which, because of a legal anomaly, are not protected by the Ministry of Defence or the War Graves Commission.
“It is a sad state of affairs really, as these are the bravest of the brave – but, apart from us, there is no one to care for their legacy,” added Mr Stapleton.
#victoriacrosstrust has so far helped preserve 80 of the 780 VC graves around the world, including that of local recipient Thomas Bryan, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, whose single-handed bravery silenced a German machine gun position and prevented hundreds of Canadian casualties at the Battle of Arras in France in 1917.
The modest former miner survived the war and went on to open a grocers’ shop in Bentley, Doncaster as well as helping to establish a soup kitchen for the needy.