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No Roses on a Sailor's Grave

8 November 2017

When historian and archaeologist John Henry Phillips made a promise to WWII British Navy veteran Patrick Thomas, he had no idea where the adventure would take them.

From the depths of the National Archives to the murky waters of the D-Day landing beaches, they’ve joined forces with some of the best divers, historians and experts as they zero in on Patrick's vanished shipwreck. 

Objective: Find the wreck and build a memorial in honor of Patrick's shipmates.

Filming has already begun, but they need your help to complete this incredible untold story and share it with the world.

Like most veterans, Patrick came home from the war and got on with his life. He never spoke of the sinking or his later adventures in the Far East until his twilight years, figuring his story and the story of his ship would die with him. John intends to change that.

PATRICK'S STORY

June 6th 1944: D-Day. Patrick Thomas, a telegraphist in the Royal Navy boards a craft in Portsmouth as thousands of vessels and tens of thousands of soldiers prepare for the day that changed history. His landing craft would be part of the first wave on Sword Beach before heading offshore to cover communications for land battles. At night, the craft would join others in forming a line to defend from E-Boats and Manned Torpedoes. During the day, the crew were either catching up on sleep or taking part in sea rescues.

June 25th 1944: Patrick’s ship was sunk by an acoustic mine. He recalls regaining consciousness whilst already in the water, bleeding from the head and covered in Battleship Grey paint. He watched the ship turn and sink to the bottom of the England Channel. Most of the crew went with it. With men and machine dropping like flies throughout the Second World War, the ship and its men have largely vanished from history.

Patrick and the families of the crew have no place to honor the fallen who sacrificed so much for our freedom. No one knows where those men ended up. There is no memorial to lay a wreathe. Seven decades later all that will change.

A PROMISE IS MADE

John Henry Phillips, former touring rock band member turned conflict archaeologist and war historian, was on his way to one of many WWII celebration events. By chance this time, his accommodations were mixed up and he found himself without a place to stay. Thankfully, a kind old veteran by the name of Patrick Thomas offered John his spare room.

A wonderful and unique friendship was to bloom over the next few events and years. One day, having visited Sword Beach earlier and looked out at the water, John said to Patrick: "You know, your ship really deserves a memorial." He then went further; "Patrick, someone should find your ship". Needless to say, Patrick was all for it.

The only problem: He has no idea where to begin building permanent memorial. More importantly, no one knows where the ship is, there are almost no records to help find it, and, oh yes, John can’t scuba dive.

Undeterred and realizing the gravity of his promise and his friend’s age, John begins a search for the missing ship and an adventure to build a permanent memorial to honor his old friend and the crew that was lost.

THE IMPACT

When John told his story they realized the urgency in getting the project done quickly. Like all WWII veterans, Patrick isn't getting any younger. Every year we lose more of these heroes and with them goes vital history that can never be retold. Living memory is what attracted John to modern conflict archaeology and feel a duty to attempt to tell this story while Patrick is still here to witness the discovery of his ship and unveil a memorial.

John's relationship with Patrick is key to the story and their time together is touching to watch. Support the project HERE.

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