Visit of the United States Ambassador to the UK

The United States Ambassador to the UK, Robert Wood Johnson, visited the Island on 8 October, and it was our pleasure to welcome him to the PT509 and PT503 memorial at Noirmont Point for a short ceremony to commemorate the 16 brave US sailors who perished on 9 August 1944 in an engagement against German minesweepers escorting four 15cm K18 field guns from Guernsey to Jersey.

Ambassador Johnson lays a wreath at the PT509 & PT503 memorial stone at Noirmont Point.

Owing to inclement weather, the ceremony at the memorial was limited to wreath laying, after which the party repaired to the Command Bunker. En route, CIOS President, Tony Pike, gave Ambassador Johnson a brief overview of Batterie Lothringen, taking in the No. 2 gun emplacement, before moving on to the cupolas and range-finder on the cliff edge.

The official party included Ambassador Johnson, His Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton GCB, BSc, FRAeS, the Bailiff, Tim Le Cocq, the Chief Minister John Le Fondré, the Minister for External Relations Ian Gorst, and the Dean of Jersey, Mike Keirle.

Memorial founder John Ovenden, Ambassador Johnson, and event organiser Alex Fearn inside the M-132 Underground Command Bunker

The commemoration resumed in the Command Bunker, where event organiser Alex Fearn read an account of the battle, the Dean read Psalm 23, and Ambassador Johnson read the roll of honour. Memorial founder and local diver John Ovenden then described his role in researching the wreck site and contacting the survivors and their families. The Ambassador was shown artefacts recovered from PT509, before moving on to a guided tour of the bunker.

Dean of Jersey, Mike Keirle, reads a blessing during a memorial ceremony inside the M-132 Underground Command Bunker

Ambassador Johnson was extremely impressed with his visit and is clearly interested in our Occupation history, as well as the historical links between Jersey and New Jersey. He hopes to return!

Article by Matthew Costard