Michael Palin 'emotional' as he joins commemorations of deadly Arctic expedition

WATCH: ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw reports from the Sir John Franklin pub

Sir Michael Palin has spoken of “feeling emotional” as he unveiled a plaque to commemorate an ill-fated expedition in which two Royal Navy ships became trapped in Arctic ice.

The Monty Python star, writer and broadcaster travelled to the banks of the River Thames in Kent, where Sir John Franklin’s voyage set sail in 1845.

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left Greenhithe in a bid to traverse the Northwest Passage. All 129 men on board died, with the shipwrecks only discovered by Canadian authorities a decade ago.

Sir Michael, who has written a book about the voyage, told ITV News: “This is a story about the achievement of the Navy and the extraordinary skills of our sailors. But I suppose, most of all, it is just that slightly emotional feeling that this would have been the last place where people would have seen these ships departing from.

“I’ve become so attached to the story of Erebus and the crew of Erebus and all the people on board, I’ve read their letters, I feel all the sort of emotions they must have felt - great hope and some doubt. The spirit of this place is quite important.”

WATCH: Sir Michael Palin tells ITV News of his "emotional feeling" over the ships' doomed voyage

The commemoration event was meant to be held in 2020, to mark the 175th anniversary of the expedition's departure, but was delayed because of the pandemic.

Leader of Dartford Borough Council, Cllr Jeremy Kite, said: “You’ve got to remember that all those years ago the River Thames would have been the M25 of its day, absolutely hustling and bustling with people.

“Then this big event took place, this major expedition, people coming from all around just to look at it departing. So, the plaque is going to sit here now, and everybody enjoying the pub is going to see it.”

Sir Michael’s book ‘Erebus: The Story of a Ship’ was published in 2018. The Dartford and Crayford Sea Cadets also attended the event at the Sir John Franklin pub on Tuesday morning.

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