Great Yarmouth celebrates naval links

Great Yarmouth town centre was lined with hundreds of people yesterday as the resort gave its latest friend a rousing reception.

The town ground to a halt as 80 sailors and officers from HMS Dauntless paraded from the town hall to St Nicholas' Church for a public service.

Union Jack flags and loud rounds of applause greeted the Royal Navy personnel who have been in Yarmouth since Thursday when their 7,500 tonne Type 45 class air defence destroyer docked at the Outer Harbour.

HMS Dauntless and its 190 crew are in town after the �1.1bn vessel became affiliated to Yarmouth earlier in the year.

As well as the large crowds in the town centre HMS Dauntless fever gripped the town as 700 people started queuing up at 8am to go on a tour of the Royal Navy's pride and joy yesterday.

Among the crowd at the town hall were Jim and Dorothy Rose who travelled from Acle to cheer on the parade.

Mr Rose, who served in Aden with the RAF in the 1960s, said: 'It is important we pay our respect to service personnel.' His wife said: 'I think it is great for the town that HMS Dauntless has come. It has bought more visitors to the town.

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'It is nice to see many young people here watching the parade.'

After the parade, which involved local marine and sea cadets and the British Legion, the sailors were treated to a town hall civic reception, one of many social functions the crew have enjoyed.

The sight of so many people lining the town centre brought a big smile to the face of Lt Cmdr Peter Lee, HMS Dauntless's marine engineering officer who handled the affiliation arrangements.

He said: 'We have all been overwhelmed by the welcome we have been given.

'Everyone from the top down to the person in the street has been very friendly.

'Most of us did not expect such a warm welcome. It has been a fantastic stay.'

In a bid to forge even stronger links with the town the crew has played local sports teams and hosted visits by cadets, schools and prominent residents of the resort.

Parts of the crew have also adopted the Caister Independent Life Boat Station as their chosen charity.

Perhaps the only down side of the visit was the 9-0 drubbing of a HMS Dauntless football team by a Gorleston FC XI in a charity match for Help for Heroes and Save the Children on Saturday afternoon at Emerald Park.

Lt Cmdr Lee said he was pleased there was not one report of any of the ship's crew getting into trouble over the weekend as they mingled with locals in pubs and late night bars.

Crew members were warmly received in the Long Bar on Marine parade which gave them free entry and discounts and also raised �1,200 for the sailor's chosen charities.

Long Bar owner and Yarmouth borough Councillor Mike Butcher said: 'I just can not praise the sailors highly enough for their behaviour. They are a real credit to the country.'

Crew members also enjoyed the challenge of making their way through 70 barrels of HMS Dauntless Ale made by Yarmouth's Blackfriars Brewery.

HMS Dauntless, one of six Type 45s to be built, is due to leave the Outer Harbour at 2pm today.

After a series of sea trials in the English Channel and the North Sea she is due to become fully operational next month.