THE widow of a Wigan Royal Navy officer who was shot dead on a nuclear submarine has thanked the Duke of Cambridge for a sending her family a “touching” letter of condolence.
Gillian Molyneux, 41, described the Submariners’ Remembrance Service and Parade in central London as an “emotional” day for her family.
Her husband Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, 36, of Wigan, was killed by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan while HMS Astute was docked in Southampton in 2011.
The mother of four, who attended the service with her sons Jamie, 18, who is an officer’s cadet and Arron, 16, who is a royal marine cadet, laid a wreath on behalf of submariners’ widows. Lt Cdr Molyneux was posthumously awarded the George Medal for his bravery.
Mrs Molyneux revealed that William had sent a personal letter of condolence.
It arrived in April 2011 as hundreds of mourners were to attend her husband’s funeral and around the time of William’s wedding. Mrs Molyneux said it was “touching” to receive such a heartfelt message at such an important time.
She noted: “He said that he could sympathise because he was the same age as Jamie when his mother was taken. I think that the intention of the letter was to make us feel that we were not alone.
“He took the time to write to us. The children took a lot from that. They could see what William and Harry went through (when their mother died) and that was really supportive and comforting at the time.
“It was nice to be able to thank him personally.”
She also has a daughter Bethany, 10, and son Charlie, seven.
Mrs Molyneux said William, who attended the remembrance service in his role as the Commodore-in-Chief of the Submarine Service, seemed “quite taken aback” when she made the face-to-face thank you.
William expressed his condolences, asked after her family and about the efforts still being made by the submariner community to support them.
“He also asked me to give the children big hugs from him which was really nice,” Mrs Molyneux said.
William joined around 400 serving and veteran submariners, including veterans of the Second World War, at the annual open air ceremony which takes place on the Sunday before the national Remembrance Day Parade.
In line with tradition he took a swig from his hip flask in a toast to absent friends during the ceremony which included prayers, the Last Post, a two minute’s silence and the playing of Reveille.
Mrs Molyneux said that her husband’s killing sent “shockwaves” through the navy at the time, “not just because it was Ian but also because of the way he died”.
Lt Cdr Molyneux was awarded a posthumous George Medal- which is second only to the George Cross - for attempting to tackle Able Seaman Ryan Donovan as he ran amok with an assault rifle on HMS Astute.
The rampage took place during a civic visit by Southampton’s mayor. Schoolchildren had just left when Donovan started firing.
The remembrance ceremony had been part of “an emotional day” but that it was good to be surround by a community of naval people and their families who care, according to Mrs Molyneux.
She said: “It is because of the way Ian died and the fact that it was another submariner who killed him which brought that reaction of shock. He was immensely popular. He had risen through the ranks and worked really hard.”
Dave Barlow, 68, of Barrow-in-Furness, an honorary vice president of the Submariners Association described the service as a way to show pride and thanks to those who have died for their country.
Noting that 167 submariners have died since 1901, he said: “It is our way of remembering. We are a very close service. It is a mark of respect to all of those who have gone before.”
The ceremony was first held in 1923 after the National Submarine Memorial on Victoria Embankment was unveiled in 1922.
Ryan Donovan admitted murdering Lt Cdr Molyneux and was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court in September 2011.