I hope it's not too late to wish shipmates very Happy New Year in this first edition of the Semaphore Circular of 2021.
I write in the midst of another lockdown but nevertheless I am enthused about the prospects for our Association in the coming year. Just before Christmas, a Special National Conference decided that we would change our financial model and do away with subscriptions in favour of donations.
Clearly, this is not without risk but gives us an opportunity to expand the Association which has not happened in decades. Indeed, as the graph opposite so starkly shows, the Association has lost approx 1000 members per year for the last 20 years and, despite many valiant attempts to arrest this decline, this has not been achieved. I am determined therefore, along with the support of National Council, to change the shape of this graph and I firmly believe that this opens the door to allow us to achieve this.
What with the wonders of this new technology, which we have all recently had to learn to master, it was great to be able to hold a mass Zoom briefing for members who wished to connect prior to the Special Conference and it was great to see that nearly 200 shipmates came online that evening to listen to the argument for change and to contribute to the discussion.
But, if we are to attract new members, we need to make the Association more attractive as well as more accessible. The change in financial model certainly allows better accessibility so the challenge now is to improve the offer. It’s hard to foster camaraderie during a lockdown but nevertheless Branches are doing a great job of keeping in touch with their more isolated shipmates – keep it up! And the initiatives around the country with branches meeting on Zoom doing various activities is both creative and welcome. On a national level we’ve been busy too.
The Fireside Chats on a Monday evening at 1800 continue to be popular and are open to all. The list of topics is published later in this Circular and includes an evening with the sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on 8th Feb whom many of us will remember when, in 1969, he became the first person to make a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the globe. Just click here
We are freshening up our Comms outputs and, for those who have their email address submitted to Central Office on the new database, you will have received a short newsletter at the start of this week which is readable on your iPads and handheld devices as well as desk top computers and laptops. This edition of the Semaphore Circular also has details of a new special interest group – The Modelmakers – and I hope to follow this announcement shortly with several more special interest groups being formed. Watch this space!
As you can imagine, it’s been a busy month behind the scenes changing the financial model and making this work and I am extremely thankful to all my team who have been at the forefront of that: Michelle, Kathryn, Nigel and Sara. Which leads me on to welcoming both Sara Field and Lynda Pearson into the Central Office team – please see further details later in this Circular – it’s great to have you both on the Staff. We are nearly there with the new Database too with only a few Branches remaining to submit their details. New Membership numbers have been allocated and the print off of the new Membership Cards is planned for 19 February so Branches who have yet to submit their details are encouraged to submit them prior to that date or your shipmates will not receive their new membership card. Please also see the new donation form which is also reproduced later in this edition.
We’ve been pushing the buttons on improving our diversity and inclusivity as well and on 12th January, in celebration of the 21st anniversary of the lifting of the ‘gay ban’, the Head Office team raised a glass in celebration with the Joint Chief Executives of Fighting With Pride (FWP), the LGBT+ Military Charity. Royal Navy Veteran, Craig Jones MBE joined us with RAF Veteran, Caroline Paige to tell us about their service and remind us about the years of the ban.
For many, time will have faded the history of the ‘gay ban’ however LGBT+ service personnel lived their lives in the shadows, trying to stay beyond the reach of the Special Investigation Branch. We remember with sadness shipmates, those who were caught, tried by Court Martial imprisoned or dismissed. We also took a moment to celebrate LGBT+ members of our Royal Navy and Royal Marines, who do a brilliant job today and who are supported and welcomed by all with whom they serve. Fighting with Pride is working with Ministers in Westminster, the devolved Governments, the NHS, Veterans charities and the LGBT+ Veterans community to help ensure that our LGBT+ Veterans feel welcome and a warm welcome exists here at the RNA. We would love to hear from Members affected by the ‘gay ban’ so please tell us about careers lost careers saved and whether yours or your shipmates.
If you, your family and friends, or those you support, were affected by the ban, Fighting With Pride will also be pleased to hear from you. There is a lot of information about them on their website and a contact form. FWP would be particularly pleased to hear from Veterans who had medals confiscated at the time of being dismissed from the Armed Forces and may be contracted through their website. www.fightingwithpride.org.uk
2021 also sees new beginnings for the Royal Navy, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH has now been officially designated as the Fleet Flagship and Ratings new entry training has started at COLLINGWOOD to compliment new entry training both at HMS RALEIGH and BRNC Dartmouth. We wish the new recruits well.
Finally, please note the postponement of our National Conference/AGM which will now be held in the same venue in Nottingham on Saturday 4th Sept 2021
As ever, Bill Oliphant