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Captain Bill Oliphant 1Captain Bill Oliphant 1
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General Secretary's Message

Dear Shipmates

Welcome to the August edition of the Semaphore Circular available in the Downloads Section of the website. According to Admiral W H Smyth’s book ‘The Sailors Word Book’ the word tot comes from ‘a small drinking cup somewhat smaller than the regulation half pint to distribute the regular allowance of grog.’ Using this slightly smaller measure meant there was a bit left over which was given to the cook of the mess for his troubles. I throw this little factoid in courtesy of Nigel as we publish this edition of the Circular on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day on Friday 31 July. With Covid still interrupting proceedings this has been scaled back but nevertheless the National President and National Chairman along with Adrian Bell, Chief Exec of the RNRMC, will be raising a glass at HMS VICTORY – this will be broadcast and details of how you can join in from the safety of your own place are covered in the BTD article. I ought to mention that the whole event will be supported by Pussers Rum who still make their Gunpowder strength rum to an Admiralty recipe.

A fortnight later, 15 August marks VJ Day but it also marks the 80th anniversary of the end of WWII – I don’t want to give the game away but look out for a major announcement that day when the RNA will recognise those survivors of that incredible generation who served in that conflict. Please also take some time to read the most informative and interesting article published by our National President in this edition about the Far East Fleet – the scale was simply amazing! Poignant too with the story of young Sub Lieutenant Hockley RNVR piloting a Seafire of INDEFATIGABLE’s 887 Squadron shot down on 14th August, the day before Japan surrendered. He baled out and landed east of Tokyo. Taken prisoner he was executed that same day. His three murderers were later tried as war criminals and two of them were hanged. He gave his life for a cause which was already won.

Good to hear that some Branches and Clubs have been able to start to meet albeit with reduced numbers and with suitable precautions but as I said last month, please ensure you keep within the letter of the law in your location and, remember, this is an absolute minimum standard. Please remain sensible and remember your responsibilities if you are a Branch Committee member.

Looking a bit further ahead, we know that the RBL is still in discussion with Westminster Council in respect of attendance at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. We’ve heard numbers may be limited – watch this space. The Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall has already been cancelled however the BBC intend to put on a suitable alternative on the Saturday evening.

I did eventually manage to get up to Nottingham last week to recce our Conference venue for next year and, I must say, it looks like a great venue. Well done to Tom Rotherham and his team for finding such a good alternative location after the original venue let us down. More details to follow in due course and, fingers crossed, we will be over this Covid business by then. Mark your diaries; 12 June 2021.

Before then of course we have this year’s Conference which will take place on-line at 1000, 21 August. Branch delegates should have the relevant papers by now and, most importantly, the raffle tickets which I would be grateful if you could make a push on selling please as they raise money for the welfare fund. It will be drawn during the Conference so please get your stubs back to Central Office where the draw will be televised from during the Conference. Nigel has kindly offered a “stub writing service” for those who want to phone in to buy tickets (02392 723747) and thanks to those who have already done so.
I’m hoping for a good attendance at Conference this year especially as you can achieve it from the comfort of your own living room and have a mug, or indeed glass, of anything you want by your side.

Moving on, please can I encourage Branch Membership Secretaries to continue to populate the new Database which is absolutely central to our three-pronged strategy for the RNA for the delivery of Comradeship through Events, Communication and Welfare Support. And please know that it is all GDPR compliant. Someone quite rightly explained it to me using an analogy which we are all familiar with. We join the Association, but our loyalty is to our Branch and shipmates in our Branch; much like we join the RN and then our loyalty is to our ship and her ship’s company. (Have I got that right or did I read somewhere that in our modern PC world, ships are now gender neutral?!)

Which leads me nicely on to Social Media. Just a reminder, if I may. We are a politically neutral organisation and if we want to continue to be supported by the RN we must keep any personal views we may have out of any correspondence we post on line. My mother always taught me that religion, politics and sex weren’t topics for the dining room table….and I seem to recall as a Midshipman in EDINBURGH the Jimmy telling us junior officers something similar for the Defence Engagement Receptions. Turns out they were both probably right!

Before I close, I ought to send a BZ to the RNBT for getting through a very tricky stage in the planning process with their Centenary Care Home which they are planning to build in Portsmouth – more later. Well done Rob Bosshardt and your team. Can I book in please?!

Finally, please remember that there is no October edition of the Semaphore Circ as I plan to send my fine team away on some very well earned leave but there is still a full programme of Fireside Chats on Mondays at 1800 (same code as above) and Virtual Tots on the Community Site on a Wednesday and Saturday at 1900 – all are welcome.

Up Spirits!
Bill Oliphant