Christmas calamity

LAST UPDATED: 24 Feb, 2012 @ 16:12
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Christmas calamity

By Clive Smith

THE last time he was on the Rock was at Christmas 1963 when former Royal Marine musician Gerald Miles should have been having a bit of well earnt R&R.

But sadly there was no chance to celebrate that festive day because Gerald, along with his colleagues, had just landed 55 bodies from the fire stricken cruise ship The Laconia.

A total of 128 people died in the fire and the job of picking up the bodies was given to Gerald and his fellow musicians, who were on their way to the Far East on board the aircraft carrier HMS Centaur.

Although 20 merchant ships were at the scene of the disaster they were not allowed to retrieve dead bodies so the Centaur was summoned to carry out the sad task.

When not playing their instruments, the Royal Marine musicians take on the role of first aiders and on Christmas Eve they pulled the corpses from the icy cold waters of the Atlantic which they duly brought ashore at Gibraltar on Christmas Day.

“It was the one Christmas in the 76 years of my life that I will never forget, “ explained Gerald has been visiting Gibraltar for the first time in 49 years.

“We had never been faced with such an horrific task. There were bodies bobbing about everywhere and our job was to recover all of them and take them ashore.

“We were all so upset and we couldn’t even speak to our loved ones back home in the UK as ringing home was not so easy in those days, especially from on board ship.”

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