A dream was realised today. But it was not the full dream.
The late Bert Bale planned to honour the memory of Raymond Steed, the youngest person in Wales to be killed on active service in World War Two. Today the Mayor of Newport John Guy unveiled this tribute.
The original hope was to have a statue of Raymond. Sculptor Sebastian Boyesen inspected the proposed site on the banks of the Usk. Here he is pictured with Bert Bale when a group of us visited the site offered by Newport City Council. Fundraising was led by Bert.
The spot is part of New Newport at Mariners Park on the banks of the River Usk - the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world.
The SS Empire Morn was a merchantman, fitted out with a catapult from which a fighter aircraft could be launched: its job to give air defence to the convoy.
The Empire Morn, carrying essential war supplies and with Steed aboard, sailed from Milford Haven, bound first for Casablanca and then Gibraltar.
But at 09.45 hours on April 26, 1943, it struck a mine laid by a German submarine, just off the coast at Rabat, Morocco, blowing up the crew’s quarters.
When a head count was taken, it was found that 21 men were missing, Steed among them. As the crippled vessel steamed for port, the wreckage was thoroughly searched and although no trace of most of the crewmen was ever found, Steed’s body was discovered near to that of an 18-year-old Ordinary Seaman.
The boy and the young man were buried with military honours at Ben M’Sik.
The South Wales Argus reported:
Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, commander of British forces in the initial stages of the North African campaign, was later to be buried in the plot next to Raymond Steed.
Thus were the campaign’s most senior combatant and the most junior participant side by side in death.
The Empire Morn was repaired and sailed on until 1973, when she was scrapped at Santander, in Spain.
Mr Bale, who is chairman of the Newport branch and national vice-chairman of the Merchant Navy Association, began his research into the Steed story four years ago, enlisting the support of Newport City Council and of Paul Flynn MP, the MNA branch’s patron.
“The council has given the patch of ground upon which the memorial will stand and the memorial itself has been designed by Sebastian Boyeson, who created among many other sculptures in the city the Merchant Navy memorial in Cardiff Road,” he said.
“Newport’s story is bound up with the sea. The city is here because of the port.
“In all that long story, Raymond Steed’s is one of the most poignant chapters.”
The original concept for the statue was impressive but the funds did not reach the target. It is now unlikely ever to be built.