Sadness at loss of life on Yarmouth Navigator

One of the few remaining boats which took part in the D-Day landings has sunk with the loss of a crewman’s life.

The Lowestoft-built Yarmouth Navigator, a ship of national historic importance, was being moved to a new mooring at Plymouth when it sank on Sunday night.

Three men made it to the shore but a fourth was missing and his body was found late yesterday afternoon.

The vessel was designed and built in 1943 by Richards Ironworks of Lowestoft as Royal Navy patrol vessel MFV 1502 to support convoys.

In 1943, the 90ft-long boat served briefly off Great Yarmouth as she prepared for full duties.

The diesel-powered vessel was one of 5,000 ships and boats that took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944 as part of the Royal Navy’s Operation Neptune.

She landed stores and ammunition from larger ships on to the pontoon roadways to supply the fighting troops ashore.

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The Yarmouth Navigator is one of only seven surviving vessels from the D-Day operations and is one of 1,000 vessels on the National Historic Ships’ register of heritage ships.

She is also part of the 200-strong National Historic Fleet.

The director of National Historic Ships, Martyn Heighton, said he hoped the Yarmouth Navigator could be brought to the surface and repaired.

He said: “We are not assuming the worse yet and have not written her off just yet. Many a ship has gone down and come up again.

“Obviously we are very concerned that we might lose her. The Yarmouth Navigator has a wonderful history and is an incredibly important part of our heritage.”

Mr Heighton also said his first thoughts were for the missing man and his family.

After the war the Yarmouth Navigator operated off the south coast after being converted into a fire boat. She was then used as a training vessel by the army and was sold off in 1991.

The Yarmouth Navigator was then used by sea cadets in the River Dart and was in the middle of a restoration project when she sank at about 6pm on Sunday as she was tied to a mooring buoy in Plymouth Sound.

A large scale search for the missing man involved a rescue helicopter, a Ministry of Defence launch, lifeboats, a Customs cutter boat, a Royal Marines landing craft, coastguard teams and a pilot boat.