Famous ship’s final survivor

HMS Kelly
HMS Kelly
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THIS war hero has certainly come through troubled waters.

Harry Tomlinson, 91, is the last surviving member of HMS Kelly, which came through an onslaught from U-Boats during the Battle of Norway, before being bombed and sunk at Crete in 1941.

Harry Tomlinson (HMS Kelly survivor) and his wife Norah at Holroyd Court, Bispham.

Harry Tomlinson (HMS Kelly survivor) and his wife Norah at Holroyd Court, Bispham.

Harry, of Holroyd Court, Bispham, now counts Prince Charles among his friends, as the ship was headed by none other than Lord Mountbatten, uncle to Prince Philip.

And the former Lead Coder, who used to dine every year with Prince Charles until 2003, when the remaining crew had depleted to just 12, has just come home from hospital after pulling through a serious chest infection.

Harry, who lives with wife Norah, said: “I look back with great fondness on the parties we’ve had over the years. Every year we looked forward to our invite to the Kelly reunion, we would chat with Prince Charles and have a wonderful time.

“He is a lovely man – at first we met in hotels, but when there were hardly any of us left, he insisted we went to St James’s Palace.”

HMS Kelly was bombed on May 23 1941, during the evacuation of Crete, 270 miles from land, and half her crew killed.

Harry then attempted to join a crew in Australia, but was denied permission because he was suffering from septicemia, and finally joining Royal Navy Light Cruiser HMS Dido.

Harry added: “I remember when the Kelly sunk, I was on the lower deck, and it slowly filled with water and turned over. I felt around with my hands and grabbed a rail, and managed to pull myself out.

“I stayed afloat for almost two hours before we were rescued – Lord Mountbatten, who I counted as a great friend, also survived.

“I must be very lucky, as when I asked permission to join a crew in Australia, I was denied permission, and it sank the next day.”

Every year, the Tomlinsons receive a signed card from Prince Charles, with a photo of himself and Princes William and Harry (above).

When the Kelly Association finally ceased to exist, a letter sent to the couple from Prince Charles read: “While it is always difficult to accept the things we hold dear coming to an end, I will always retain the fondest of memories of the times we gathered together.

Norah, 91, who married Harry in 1943, said: “Those parties, they were the best times we ever had, we got quite drunk because your glass was topped up every five minutes. I’m so proud of Harry and what he’s done, I just hope we can get to our platinum wedding in 2013.”