Service of thanksgiving for the life of Sir Donald Gosling

Royal Navy personnel past and present attended a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of one of its greatest benefactors, Sir Donald Gosling, at Westminster Abbey.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall joined other members of the Royal Family, including the Duke of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Michael of Kent and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, for the service, which was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend David Hoyle.

Former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas represented the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

The congregation also included Dame Shirley Bassey, former newsreader Angela Rippon, Sir Bruce Forsyth’s widow, Lady Forsyth-Johnson, and Riverdance creator Michael Flatley

Sir Donald, who held the title of honorary Vice Admiral, died in September, aged 90.

The White Ensign was then presented to the Dean by Sergeant Jay McGhie RM, Chief Petty Officer Glyn Kemsley-Harper, Petty Officer Gary Wright and Leading Hands Christopher Redman and Nathan Edwards.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin read a prayer before veteran comedian Jimmy Tarbuck delivered a tribute. He was followed by the Countess of Wessex, who read from Isaiah 55: 6-13.

Readings were also given by Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce and prayers were delivered by Chaplain of the Fleet, the Venerable Martyn Gough. A tribute was delivered by Warrant Officer Naval Service Nick Sharland.

We recall his enduring love of the Royal Navy, and his loyalty to the bonds of commitment that unite it and the traditions that sustain it.

The Very Reverend David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster

As the service concluded, the Band of HM Royal Marines, Collingwood, played a series of Henry Wood’s medleys, Fantasia on British Sea Songs.

Sir Donald joined the Royal Navy in 1944 and, after completing training, served in the cruiser HMS Leander on a two-year post-war patrol of the Mediterranean. This left a lasting impression on him, and both his house and his yacht Leander G were named after the warship.

Upon leaving the RN in the late 1940s, he teamed up with fellow ex-serviceman Ronald Hobson, buying a bombsite in London and turning it into a car park.

Over the next 50 years, the venture grew into National Car Parks, business operating more than 650 sites and was worth £800m when the two friends sold it in 1998.

By then, Sir Donald – he was knighted in 1976 – had been a long-time advocate, supporter and benefactor of the Royal Navy, including four years as chairman of the White Ensign Association.