7 Mar


Grieving families mark 35 years since the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster with Memorial Service

7 Mar, 2022

Families of those who perished on the Herald of Free Enterprise 35 years ago gathered to mark the anniversary in a special service run by international maritime welfare charity Sailors’ Society in Dover last Sunday (March 6).

The names of all 193 passengers and crew lost shortly after the roll-on roll-off ferry left Zeebrugge in Belgium were read out during the service.

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin made a moving address and families gathered after the service for a short Act of Remembrance on the seafront.

Many of those on board had taken advantage of a newspaper promotion offering cheap trips to the continent. All but seven of those who died when the ferry capsized in just 90 seconds were British.

Kim Spooner, who lost her aunt and uncle in the disaster, read at the Memorial Service.

“I still feel the loss of my aunt and uncle as powerfully as I did in 1987,” said Kim Spooner, who was eight at the time and who read at the service this year.

"It’s hard to believe it is 35 years since that terrible night when so many lives were lost and changed forever.

“I am so grateful to Sailors’ Society and St Mary’s Church in Dover for continuing to mark the anniversary of this tragedy and for honouring the memory of our loved ones. I do not want the circumstances of this tragedy to ever be forgotten.”

Sailors’ Society chaplains comforted and supported families and survivors affected that night. Every year since, the charity has organised the memorial service and the prayers that follow at the seafront close to the port, where the first families gathered for news 35 years ago.

Last year the pandemic meant families had to join a shortened service via Zoom. But this year families were able to gather together in person again, with the option of joining online.

Sailors’ Society’s CEO Sara Baade said: “For 35 years this tragedy has remained in the hearts of everyone affected, including our chaplains who comforted and supported the families and survivors. This memorial service gave us the chance to join with families in remembrance not only of the loved ones lost, but the many heroic acts of crew and passengers that night.”

To view a recording of the 35th Anniversary Memorial service, please click below:

To download the Order of Service, please click here.

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