“Forth Bridge is down” was the coded text message which pinged across to me mid-morning 9 April. I think Princess Anne described it best when she said that despite being prepared for the inevitability of the moment, the news of HRH Prince Philip crossing the bar was still a shock. I felt her pain. I watched a bit of the coverage on the Duke’s amazing life on the tv at lunchtime and I took a moment to reflect before leaving the Naval Base that day. I went down to the jetties to see that the ships had already shifted their ensigns to half-mast in respect.
It must have been about 1700 and, on a Friday, you can imagine the dockyard wasn’t very busy. With not another soul in sight, and he would not have seen me sitting in my car, I watched a loan sailor skipping up the brow of DEFENDER. Just as he reached the top of the brow, he glanced aft, saw the half-masted ensign, and recognised the significance. Almost as an involuntary action, he saluted the flag. I found it really quite touching, that private little mark of respect. Nice one Shipmate!
The tributes are still flowing into Central Office from Branches and Shipmates around the Association and we have already decided that our Yearbook this year will be dedicated to our Shipmate Prince Philip.
It has indeed been a sad month; not only with the passing of the Duke but we also lost our well-loved Shipmate Nobby Hall who eventually succumbed to his titanic battle with cancer – RIP Nobby – and also the tragedy of the sinking of the Indonesian navy’s submarine KRI NANGGALA with the loss of its 53 ship’s company. Our hearts go out to the families of the crew. Submariners especially in our Association would wish to know that an appeal has been started to support the families of the crew – please see the RNA Community Facebook page for details.
I promise the remainder of this intro will be cheerier!
What a great day on Saturday 1st May when the Central Office team set up the RNA gazebo at 0730 at the back of the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth to support the families who had come down to wave off the ships of Carrier Strike Group 21. DIAMOND was first out at 0800, followed by DEFENDER at 1000, KENT at 1200 and then QUEEN ELIZABETH at 1545 all looking resplendent at Procedure Alpha. Just amazing to stand on this side and see the emotion of the moment when families were waving off sons and daughters, husbands and wives and fathers and mothers. It was lovely to have conversations from families who had driven as far as Wales and Scunthorpe. This was an out and out recruiting drive and we set ourselves a target of 100 new recruits on the day having surpassed earlier in the week the magic 1000 new members this year. Thank you to my CO team – Keith Ridley calls you my “Press Gang!” - for members to come down with their glittering machines and support the effort – much appreciated. The Riders Branch now boasts 130 members and is increasingly popular – BZ lads!
As indicated in the Semaphore Short last week, and thanks to those who have already responded, I’m also looking at a similar group for those who have old or interesting vehicles. I have a 1969 Fiat 500 which my wife and I get a lot of enjoyment from heading out for picnics in the summer and if any shipmates would quite like to do likewise it would be fun. What I am planning is a mini rally from St Neots, where our last (physical) National Conference was held, to Nottingham ahead of this year’s Conference. To carry the flame as it were, or, in our case, the Standard. Please get in touch if this appeals – firstname.lastname@example.org I envisage meeting on the evening of Thursday 02 Sep at St Neots for an opportunity to chat and then the following morning take a gentle route to Nottingham stopping for lunch en route with arrival at Nottingham in time to scrub up ahead of the evening Conference welcome drinks in the Crowne Plaza.
I must take the opportunity to say farewell to our long-standing Finance lady Michelle, who, after going sick earlier in the year, has decided not to return. Michelle we wish you well.
Finally, I was delighted to be able to drop a Pussers finest into S/m Bill Silvester on his 97th birthday last Friday. Bill has been unwell in Queen Alexandra’s Hospital for a while and is now on the road to recovery back home in Southsea. It was good to see the WW2 veteran in fine form.
PS. Sorry about my cock up with Monday’s Fireside Chat – normal service resumed next week