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Son of HMS Caroline's gunner dies at 94

By Rebecca Black

Published 07/05/2015

HMS Caroline moored in Belfast dock
HMS Caroline moored in Belfast dock

One of the last remaining people in the world with a link to the iconic warship HMS Caroline has passed away.

Retired Liverpool customs officer Thomas Weddick (94), whose Limerick-born father was the chief gunner on HMS Caroline during the Battle of Jutland in 1916, died this week.

Mr Weddick had recently fulfilled a life-long promise to visit Belfast-based HMS Caroline.

The ship is now being restored in Belfast's Alexandra Dock near the Titanic Centre and will be opened to the public on the famous World War One battle's centenary, May 31, 2016.

At the time of his visit in 2013 Mr Weddick said he was anxious to see the ship before it started a three-year, £14m restoration project being undertaken by the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the Department for Enterprise Trade and Investment of Northern Ireland.

"My father was a Limerick man who joined the navy at the age of 16," Mr Weddick said. "That was in 1899 - technically, three centuries ago!"

"To see the vessel, and the parts of it which remain as my dad would have known them, is a very moving experience.

"My father was a brave man who suffered partial deafness as he corrected a jammed gun during the Battle of Jutland, but in his later years he said he loathed war.

"Nevertheless, he spent 21 years in the navy and was very proud of his role.

"He also said he would have liked to have known more about the German gunnery as he believed they were superior to ours."

Safeguarding work worth £1m financed by the National Heritage Memorial Fund is now complete so no further deterioration of the ship will occur.

The overall £14m preservation and restoration project is the largest such ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.

It's hoped the ship will be open to the public once the restoration and refit is complete. Currently tourists can only photograph the outside of the warship.

Richard Black, chairman of the Friends of Caroline, who showed Mr Weddick around the ship, says he is very sad to learn of his death.

"I am so pleased in many ways that Thomas Weddick and his daughter Helen were able to see the ship and come on board and see the ship as James Weddick, chief gunner, would have known it."

Mr Weddick will be buried near his home in Birkenhead on Thursday, May 7.

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