National Chairman Shipmate Keith RidleyNational Chairman Shipmate Keith Ridley

Chairman's Chat


Dear Shipmates,

I missed you last month as the task master S/M Andy Christie hidden in his man cave made me yield, and quite rightly so, to our National President’s article. I used the term S/m because when Andy is not turned too at Central Office, he is Chairman of Lee on the Solent & Stubbington RNA Branch. Having had the opportunity of visiting the Branch last year I found them all to be a jolly bunch with just over 40 members attending the meeting.
So, what has happened to the Sun since last month? For a few weeks Commander (E) and myself have managed to squeeze in quite a few BBQ’s to the envy of our village dog walkers as they passed us by on the public footpath which at the rear of our cottage, leads out across the field. We have no garden with this former farm worker’s cottage but have the right to occupy a 15ft strip of land on the edge of the field. I often invite visitors to view my hundreds of acres of garden which is at its best when the Rape Crop is in golden flower, but no so good went it dies off, gets wet and stinks to high heaven. Living at the bottom end of a small cul-de-sac does have its advantage with no traffic. Sadly, as I write (type) an umbrella is now the order of the day with unscheduled heavy rain showers.

Membership news relating to WWII Naval Veterans:
The National Council has approved the following RNA Membership Benefits to WWII Veterans in recognition of their Service to the Country with effect from 15th August 2020.
• NON RNA WWII Royal Navy Veterans are to be offered FREE Membership of the RNA.
• RNA WWII Veterans who are FULL Members with under 10 years continuous Membership will no longer be required to pay the Association Annual Subscription from 1st January 2021.
• RNA WWII Veterans who are FULL Members with over 10 years continuous Membership will be invited to accept LIFE Membership without cost to their Branch (Also applicable to HQ Roll Members).
Branch Levies & Club Membership fees are not affected by the above, but I sincerely hope that Branches and Clubs will consider such veterans favourably.
A proforma for the implementation of the above has been sent to all Branch Secretaries by Central Office.

Running through Facebook and tuning into the successful Virtual TOT Nights set up by the RNA Wrexham Branch twins S/ms Eric Holmwood & Kevin Hackett, which are now being held on a Saturday evening only, it is pleasing to learn that the physical experience of Branch Meetings are now beginning to get back to some normality. However, having regard to social distancing, this is proving difficult where a Branch meeting takes place in a Pub. For the time being, this is where Zoom comes into its own. Branch Secretaries are reminded that Central Office will reimburse Branches should they wish to take out a monthly subscription of Zoom Pro @ £11.99 per month which can be cancelled without notice. Meanwhile, please ensure you observe all safety precautions Shipmates and carrying out a Risk Assessment of the premises where you meet.
The Monday nights Zoom Fireside Chats are proving to be remarkably successful with a most interesting range of topics being delivered by Shipmates and senior naval staff. Repeating some of what Bill Oliphant mentioned in last month’s circular, talks held have been on the Battle of Jutland, the taking of South Georgia by HMS ANTRIM, memories of a D Day Veteran, the Battle of Taranto which was a great victory for the Fleet Air Arm. Look out in the Semaphore Circular for the diary of forthcoming talks which are highly recommended. Branch quiz nights around the country are also being held using Zoom and are becoming popular and open to all. For more information check out the Royal Naval Association Community Site on Facebook or Google it for events & dates along with sign in ID’s and Passwords.

The 50th Anniversary of Black Tot Day was to have been commemorated aboard HMS BELFAST which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. Instead a scaled down event was held on land astern of HMS VICTORY attended by our National President, myself, Adrian Bell CEO of RNRMC, Steve Dingley Brand Manager for PUSSER’S RUM with Shep Wooley and his orchestral shipmates. Various media covered the event and the live streaming on YouTube showed me proposing the Loyal Toast no less than three times as each media rep asked, “can you do that again” (silly question!). Normally I would jump at the opportunity of several Tots, but as I was driving, eagle-eyed shipmates viewing will have noticed the second, third and fourth Tots got smaller. The sacrifices I have to make!

Despite the Covid-19 restrictions imposed on us, I wish to acknowledge all Shipmates for the respects you paid on VJ75 Day – 15th August, be it you attended your local War Memorial or Paraded your Branch Standard outside your home – Lest we Forget. A BZ to all those who paid their respects on the day. It was quite moving to watch the National Memorial Arboretum Commemoration Service on BBC TV and listen to the interviews with Far East Veterans. On the evening I visited a 95-year-old member of my Branch, Ernie Page who served in India as a Shipwright maintaining and repairing Landing Craft. I had volunteered him to host the Tot toast on the Virtual Tot that evening. At 95, despite my protesting, Ernie insisted getting down on his hands & knees to sort out his spirit locker to locate the appropriate liquid. Ernie was simply blown away with the technology of Zoom and seeing so many Shipmates from around the country on a mobile phone. If you have access to the Internet, please do join us each Saturday from 1830 with the Tot at 1910ish and several more after! Like most participants, the old Rum stock has taken a hammering, but the upside is your having a drink at home shared with Shipmates from all over the world.

National Conference 2021. This will be held in Nottingham hosted by No 9 Area and held at the 4* Crowne Plaza Hotel matching the price of the famous Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. I would ask all Branches to make the utmost effort to attend, remember that this is also a reunion weekend and a great opportunity to meet up with Shipmates from Branches from all over. Several non urgent motions were held back from this year’s Conference as we did not know just how complicated or simple this year’s Zoom Conference would be. It is no use sitting back dripping about national matters if you do not exercise your right to attend and vote. National Conference is your Branch’s opportunity to make its voice heard, so let us see as many Branches represented as possible at next year’s Conference.

Not allowing Covid-19 to stagnate the growth of the Association, it has been agreed to allow new Branches to Commission using Zoom. So standby to welcome onboard new Branches surfacing at; Portsea, Salisbury & Thetford.
On the finance front, it will be appreciated if Branch Treasurers could forward to CO membership subscriptions when collected.
On a more personal point, my Granddaughter Katherine has just graduated with a First-Class Degree with Honours in Paramedic Science and is due to start work as a Paramedic with the East of England Ambulance Service in September. Paramedic students like Katherine would spend alternative 4 weeks at lectures and 4 weeks out on the frontline working 12 -16 hours shifts as the third crew member. Since February with the outbreak of Covid-19, second & third-year students were pressed into frontline service becoming the full-time No 2 crew member.
Well Shipmates that is enough from me. Time to secure and put away my wheel spanner
To those serving including reservists who continue to support the frontline against Covid-19 keep up the good work. With relaxed government guidelines I hope you are now being able to see your families more often.

Please continue to share your dits and Branch or Ship’s news (including the Silent Service Boats) by articles to Andy Christie at no matter how short they maybe. To our Overseas Branches – we know you are out there but want to hear from you. To Shipmates and your families in the UK and throughout the world and at sea, keep safe and adhere to all the advice being given to you. Do not lose sight that the Covid-19 is still out there so let us all set our sights on coming out of this crisis together. Stay Safe.

Yours aye,   
Keith Ridley