A busy time in my private & RNA life last month prevented me from submitting my Chat, so please accept my apology.
Congratulations goes to S/m Geoff Apperley of Royston Branch on being a Awarded the British Empire Medal in The Queen’s Birthday Honours for his outstanding National Welfare Support and Advice throughout this Covid crisis. Geoff stepped forward in March 2020 as Deputy National Welfare Adviser when S/m Rita Lock the then National Welfare Adviser became unwell. Earlier this year Rita stood down and Geoff was appointed by the National Council to replace her. Behind the scenes, Geoff beavered away as No 6 Area Secretary and Area Welfare Adviser whilst at the same time providing advice on Welfare at National Level. Where does he get his energy from?
The highlight in May, but slightly disappointing was my visit to Pompey to witness the departure of the CSG21 sailing of HMS Queen Elizabeth on 22 May along with her multi nations escorts. The plan had been to treat my wife to 4 days in Portsmouth and witness the CSG21 Fleet at anchor in the Solent from our Sea View Room at the Royal Beach Hotel, Southsea. In doing so, take the opportunity to invite our National President & General Secretary up to the room for ring side seats.
So, where did it all go wrong? The hotel room turned out to be facing inwards to a courtyard with an excellent view of scaffolding past the window! Being a Stoker and none too familiar where the Officers and Dabtoes parked departing Ships in the Solent, my hotel was approximately 1.5 to 2 miles away, but I could see 2 RN Frigates in the distance, due to the foul weather, the remainder of the Fleet was to meet up over the horizon. The reality was HMS QE had entered the Naval Base early on the Thursday morning and sailed at 2130 on Saturday 22 May as the light faded.
The good news was we did all meet up for a meal in the Still & West on the harbour entrance with a great view (in daylight). So as HMS QE sailed the twinkling lights of Gosport suddenly appeared to get switched off by 65,000 tons of warship passing by in total darkness. The wife asked why the ship was not all lit up? I explained it was a warship and not the IOW Ferry, nor a cross channel ferry or cruise liner.
Just 30 minutes earlier the USS The Sullivans had preceded HMS QE to sea. It was very poignant as the Ship, the second to have been named by the USN, was named after the 5 Brothers; George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert who had had all lost their lives whilst serving onboard USS Juneau in November 1942 which was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Lest we Forget the sacrifices made by all those who served at Sea.
Looking ahead this month and if Covid-19 keeps its nasty head down, Branches can once again meet face to face. Observing Covid guidelines, my own Branch managed a few socially distanced gatherings. The past 15 months has been a testing, and to some a sad time. To those of us that have lost loved ones and Shipmates to Covid, let us all remember them and the happy times we spent together. We must not and will not forget them. I thank all members for the support you have given to Shipmates throughout the crisis and other ex-service veterans.
Since 1st January recruitment is seriously well up, with approximately 1600 coming onboard. Please ensure they get a warm welcome when attending your Branch Meetings.
The new membership cards have all been sent out to Branch Secretaries where Branches submitted details online. Those Branches that struggled with technology have received a helping hand either from a neighbouring Branch or the Central Office Team. The latter have done a brilliant job not only in sending out the cards, but firstly having to sort them, and then mail them. Like all new systems there have been some teething problems of one sort of another, so I thank all concerned for your patience whilst your queries got dealt with.
One point I wish to stress to Branch Secretaries is please do not amend an incorrect name on a membership card, but instead contact Sara Field at Central Office for a replacement.
For those of you that have not followed the various Facebook Groups Posts, the Fleet have been extremely busy, and notably sailing on a Sunday which was unbeknown in my days.
Time to sign off and again recheck my clothing for shrinkage. To all our serving Shipmates including reservists, who continue to support the frontline against Covid-19, keep up the good work, to Shipmates and your families in the UK and throughout the world keep safe. For those at sea, a safe return. Stay safe everyone, we will overcome Covid, and we will all emerge to share our Dits and a Tot together.