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Pencader Heritage Museum hosts ceremonial return of British flag

Written on: September 14th, 2017 in Historic Sites Museums News

HMS Sheffield flag draped over a display table

HMS Sheffield flag draped over a display table

During a ceremony at the Pencader Heritage Museum in Newark, Del. on Sept. 6, 2017, former Newark Police Chief Bill Brierley returned to the British government the Union Jack that had once flown over HMS Sheffield, a guided-missile destroyer that was later sunk in 1982 during the Falklands War. The flag was left with Brierley by a British police officer after an international law-enforcement conference that took place in Newark in 1974.

As part of the program, two U.S. Marines, presided over by 1st Lt. Christopher Watkins of the Delaware Army National Guard, ceremonially folded the flag. Watkins then handed it to Brierley who, in turn, passed it to Maj. Justin Bellman, a U.S. Marine who had helped organize the event. Bellman then presented the flag to Cmdr. Richard McHugh, the assistant naval attaché for the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. Upon its return to the United Kingdom, the flag will be displayed in the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, England.

1st Lt. Christopher Watkins presides over the ceremonial folding of the HMS Sheffield flag by two U.S. Marines. Standing from the left are former Newark Police Chief Bill Brierley, Maj. Justin Bellman and Cmdr. Richard McHugh.

1st Lt. Christopher Watkins presides over the ceremonial folding of the HMS Sheffield flag by two U.S. Marines. Standing from the left are former Newark Police Chief Bill Brierley, Maj. Justin Bellman and Cmdr. Richard McHugh.

Other highlights of the program include the reading of the names of the 20 British sailors who lost their lives during the attack on the Sheffield; a presentation on the history of the ship by McHugh; a recounting by Brierley of how he received the flag; a moving bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace” by Lt. Brian Grant of the Delaware Army National Guard; and the presentation of a crystal box to McHugh—a gift from U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons. Desiree Burritt, constituent advocate from Coons’ office, presented the gift in the senator’s absence.

HMS Sheffield

HMS Sheffield

Among the approximately 50 invited guests who attended the program were state Rep. Earl G. Jaques Jr., and state Sen. Stephanie L. Hansen who read a legislative proclamation honoring the flag transfer. Also on hand was Laura Wisniewski from the office of Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long who read a proclamation from the State of Delaware. The event was presided over by museum board member Bill Conley.

The Pencader Heritage Museum is located at 2029 Sunset Lake Road in Newark, Del. The museum is housed in a barn on the grounds of Cooch-Dayett Mills, a former grist mill that is owned by the State of Delaware and administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. The barn is leased to the Pencader Heritage Area Association for its museum which spotlights the history of the Pencader Hundred area of northern New Castle County. Museum exhibits include pictures and memorabilia of the Cooch family, artifacts and information regarding the history of Cooch-Dayett Mills, Native American artifacts and information on the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, the only American Revolutionary War battle fought on Delaware soil.

Postscript …
For a press account of the flag-transfer ceremony, go to the following Newark Post article: Historic flag returned to British Navy during Newark ceremony. The article received more than 7,000 hits within 24 hours after it was posted on the newspaper’s website. More than 50% of the hits came from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

 


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