Farewell at sea for Mr Loophole's officer uncle

Nick Freeman's late uncle Frank, who died in 1944

Nick Freeman's late uncle Frank, who died in 1944

On a June night in 1944, all was dark and quiet as the 13-man crew of the small D-Day landing craft slowly approached the south coast on its return journey from Normandy.

But just four miles from the safety of Portsmouth harbour, disaster struck. The small craft collided with HMS Rodney, a 34,000-ton battleship, which sliced the boat in half. Within seconds the small craft had plunged to the bottom of the Solent. The crew never stood a chance.

Among the dead was a 20-year-old Jewish naval officer, Sub-Lieutenant Frank Freeman from Nottingham, who was believed to have been second-in-command on that fateful night.

Now, almost 70 years after Frank's death, his surviving relatives are finally able to achieve some sense of closure. Three weeks ago, divers from a local sub-aqua club located the wreck of the Second World War landing craft, which, on that fateful night, was returning from delivering tanks to France.

Nick Freeman

Nick Freeman

Yesterday (November 17) the young officer's family took part in a moving memorial service in Portsmouth, laying a wreath at sea where the wreck now lies.

Among the family taking comfort from this final act of remembrance was Frank's nephew, the celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman, who, with his mother Pat, was contacted only a few weeks ago about this remarkable development.

Mr Freeman, known as "Mr Loophole" for his ability to defend clients on technical points of law, said: "I got a call out of the blue. When divers first found the wreck, the local press and radio covered the story and a plea went out for any family of the crew to come forward. A cousin of my late father, Keith, contacted us and broke the news.

"We were all absolutely astonished. Frank was my late father's brother - Dad gave me Frank as a middle name. Growing up, I and my two younger brothers listened to stories of our uncle who had been killed in an enemy attack. That was the received wisdom.

"Our grandfather, Emmanuel 'Manny' Freeman, never got over the death of his son, and what made it so hard for him was that he didn't know of Frank's final resting place. It must have been torture. And now we do. It has been an incredibly emotional time for all of us."

Manny Freeman was also a notable war hero - on his 101st birthday he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration, in recognition of his service during the First World War.

On the day of his son's death, June 7, 1944, countless ships were cross-crossing the waters between England and France. Due to the scale and magnitude of the Normandy invasion, the incident went unreported for two months.

The two sections of the wreck are said to be in a remarkable condition, and lie several hundred metres apart at a depth of 30 miles, along with anti-aircraft guns and ammunition boxes.

In addition to the memorial service at sea, the Freeman family were keen that there should be some act of Jewish remembrance for Frank.

Nick Freeman said: "We spoke to Manchester Aish rabbi Benji Silverstone, who suggested that we should recite El Maleh Rachamim (God, full of compassion) on the quayside. Our family also hope that the local council may erect some kind of permanent monument to remember Frank and the other brave souls who went down with their ship.

"My grandfather and my father, who was 13 when Frank died, suffered an incalculable loss. And now the rest of the family feel we have finally put this brave young man to rest."

    Last updated: 12:47pm, November 17 2011