First things first. On behalf of the RNA, our National President has taken the opportunity to write a note of congratulations to the Right Hon Penny Mordaunt MP on her elevation to Secretary of State for Defence. She is a Royal Navy reservist, a former minister for the armed forces and the MP for Portsmouth North, home of Portsmouth Naval Base so we’re delighted that someone so close to the Royal Navy now holds such an important office of state.
Secondly, if you have not heard this through other means, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that the RNA’s Project Semaphore won first prize in the Soldiering On Awards ceremony in London on 5 April as the People’s Choice for a project that has provided a significant contribution in support of the Armed Forces community. This is fitting tribute to our Project Semaphore Project Manager, Sarah Clewes and her close team of S/m Julie Royston and S/m Alan Magrath who have worked tirelessly to help naval veterans realise the benefits of being online and to address the issues of social isolation and loneliness. We remain entirely thankful to the Aged Veteran Fund for funding the project and of course the team of 15 or so S/m volunteers who have worked with Sarah, Julie and Al to deliver the project so successfully. A big BZ to all involved and there is an article later in this month’s Semaphore Circular with more detail.
I also take great pleasure in welcoming both Greenwich Hospital and AW Ship Management Ltd as our latest Corporate Sponsors. We are of course no strangers with Greenwich Hospital who, as a key naval charity, have already supported the RNA over the years and, indeed, continue to do so now. AW Ship Management however found us on the web and have been keen to support the Objects of our Charity. The sailing of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH afforded us a fine opportunity to invite the new sponsors to the Naval Base and we were able to raise a glass of fizz to toast the occasion. We look forward to extending the relationship in the future and hope to see representation at the Annual Conference in Wyboston.
As stated, QNLZ made it out of Portsmouth on time but had more of a struggle getting into Rosyth at the other end. The whole procedure is a Navigator’s nightmare with finding the right tides to get under the Forth Rail Bridge and over the bar into Rosyth before squeezing into the basin with 15” spare on either side. Anyway, it was all completed and safely docked albeit on the 3rd day of waiting for the wind to be within an acceptable limit.
On the commemorative front, I must thank the Irish Naval Association for turning out with the 12 Area RNA at the recent event in Dublin at the British War Memorial to mark the centenary of the disbandment of the RND after the Great War. Meanwhile, planning for D-Day 75, although a little late in being gripped by the relevant authorities is now in full swing although it appears that the event at Portsmouth on 05 June has been Trumped by a Heads of State visit! Notwithstanding, the RNA will be represented and, it is hoped, that some of our veterans will meet those Heads of State. Ahead of the D-Day commemorations, we had an interesting sight in the Naval Base today as they placed the huge statue made of the very famous photograph taken in New York at the end of the war of a sailor heartily kissing his bonnie lass. I hope you get a sense of the scale from the photograph – that’s VICTORY’s bowsprit you can see in the picture.
There’s another exciting anniversary on the horizon. Next year, 2020, sees the 50th Anniversary of the cessation of the Rum Ration which we are already in cahoots with Pussers Rum and the RNRMC to commemorate appropriately. By 1970, for matters of safety and for general health, in a modern, high tech and nuclear Royal Navy, it was clearly no longer appropriate to continue to issue the rum ration. And, with this in mind, this commemoration will seek to celebrate the opportunity that “Up Spirits” brought to bring people together.
This year however on 30 July 2019, as a “dry run” for the following year’s event, it is proposed to have a 3-course luncheon in HMS BELFAST where the order “Up Spirits!” will be re-enacted. Each Area has been allocated 4 single tickets each and Areas should use their own discretion for the worthy allocation of tickets but should keep in mind that the 4 tickets include spouses/carers. I have reserved 8 tickets for HQ Role members and would invite applications for the ballot by close of play Monday 10 June. While the lunch is all kindly paid by the sponsors, using a funding model akin to the Welfare Seminar, the RNA will offer a contribution towards travel expenses for all members, which will be capped at £50. Unless in exceptional circumstances, there is no funding budgeted for overnight accommodation. On the day, the Ship will be open from 1200 for a 1230 start and participants are encouraged to wear RNA rig. The meal will conclude with a talk from the BELFAST’s Yeoman and, for those who wish, a tour of the ship.
Finally, as at 01 May, I must confess I am a tad disappointed that we only have some 48 delegates registered for this year’s National Conference in Wyboston especially as it is a relatively accessible location in the country and we have some interesting things on the agenda including a briefing by the Naval Secretary, Admiral Mike Bath and a presentation from 2nd Sea Lord’s Personnel Liaison Team as well as a full social programme. Can I urge you therefore to consider your attendance and support this event which 6 Area have gone to great lengths to put together for us.
See you there!
Best wishes from the Central Office Team