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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Prince commemorates Royal Navy crew
Countess Mountbatten (left) and Prince Charles
Countess Mountbatten (left) accompanied the prince
The Prince of Wales has planted a tree in memory of those who served on a Royal Navy destroyer captained by his late uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

On Tuesday, the prince joined six former crewmen from HMS Kelly, which was sunk off Crete during World War II at a dedication ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum, near Alrewas, Staffordshire.

Charles planted the English oak sapling in a section of the arboretum dedicated to Royal Navy personnel.

More than 60 friends and relatives of seamen from HMS Kelly were also present at the ceremony.

'Great mixer'

Former torpedo man George Dewell, speaking before the Prince's arrival, said the day held mixed emotions for him.

The 81-year-old, from Chelmsford, Essex, said the prince's uncle, who survived the sinking of the Kelly but was murdered by terrorists off County Sligo in 1979, had a remarkable ability to unite his crew.

"He was a great mixer. He didn't cut himself off from the ship's company, he was the only captain she (HMS Kelly) ever had and he was a great man," he said.

Fellow member of the HMS Kelly Association, Ronald Hall, 81, from Grimsby, said Lord Mountbatten had demanded just two things of those who served under him - a happy ship and an efficient ship.

Sunk by bombers

"He was a great captain, a man who will never come this way again," he said.

The Kelly went down with the loss of nine officers and 121 ratings when she was sunk by German bombers on 23 May 1941.

A year previously, the Tyneside-built ship, commissioned in 1939, was badly damaged off the coast of Holland but was towed back to port and repaired.

During his visit to the arboretum, the prince, who was accompanied by Countess Mountbatten, also attended a private dedication service in the arboretum's chapel.

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