The Association met for its annual reunion at the Station Hotel Perth from Friday 2 June to Sunday 4 June. 250+ Shipmates booked into the Station and Queens Hotels or made their own arrangements. Everyone met on Friday night for the informal reunion with many old friends meeting up. The Perth and Kinross Sea Cadets did a very smart sunset, which was much enjoyed. We were joined by Rear Admiral John Weale OBE, FOSNI, who met many shipmates. The bars were long closed when the Deputy National President, S/M Cdre Mark Slawson eventually arrived at 1.30 am after a 13-hour flight from Southampton! (Well OK he got the flight times wrong!!).
The National Council had a good set of meetings on the Friday and the Central Office team were able to set up the Conference Room on Friday afternoon, which was a big help – allowing Michelle a welcome lie-in. After the usual 10-course cooked breakfast, the Conference got underway promptly at 1000 with 69 delegates registered for attendance. The Conference room was perfect, being roomy and well-lit. Bob Coburn marched in the National Standard and Rev Ian Wheatly opened with a prayer and a brief reflection on the day ahead.
The Provost of Perth Councillor Dennis Malloy opened conference and welcomed the RNA to Perth. Cllr Malloy has only just been elected as Provost and is the first Conservative for 20 years. The National President took delight in telling us that the Provost was an accomplished Ballroom dancing instructor and that we were only his second gig in his new role!
Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland, Rear Admiral John Weale OBE, provided the keynote speech. He covered the role of Scotland in shipbuilding, the fact that a third of the RN was in Scotland. He praised the RNA for its work with Shipmates and Oppos, mentoring and acting as Ambassadors for the RN in regional and local communities. He took Conference through the present commitments of the RN – especially how busy the Russian Navy is keeping us. He talked, as Rear Admiral Submarines (the second of his 3 jobs), with pride of the 350th deterrent patrol with 48 continuous years – and 2019 as a special year. He covered the great success of the Type 45 radar and command systems and the propulsion get well programme that is progressing satisfactorily. He looked forward to the dawn of a new carrier age and force generation by Carrier Group (a mix of T45, T23, SSN and AOR). The RN is already cutting steel for the SSBN successor (Dreadnought) and the 4th Astute is in the water (HMS AUDACIOUS).
He mentioned the many manpower challenges of developing sufficient quality, trained personnel. He asked the RNA to help engage with the younger generation to encourage recruiting. Admiral Weale enjoyed accepting a decanter of Pusser’s Rum as a thank you for giving his Saturday up.
The National President made his address to Conference. He mentioned that the RNA has had a busy year, in particular the progress of Project Semaphore aiming to connect digitally isolated naval veterans – inviting each branch to find 3 candidates, the benefits of binging families closer together and broadening the horizons of those coming into the programme are marvellous. The fitting of Pembroke House was a particular hjighlight. He reflected on the LIBOR minibus project for socially isolated veterans and bringing veterans together. He announced that we hoped to have all 3 buses at the Biennial Parade. He covered other initiatives such as the Branch Secretaries Guide, tradmarking of the RNA logo, and co-investing with the RNRMC to get better returns and lower fees. He finished with ‘You have a great story to tell our local community .. so lets go out and recruit’. He answered one question about providing a draft advert for use in Local Papers. GS then read out the letter from Her Majesty and other supporters.
So S/M Ivan Hunter the new Chair of the Standing Orders Committee got us going with the approval of the standing orders for Conference
We got on with the President’s Prizes With 6 Area winning the Tasker Bowl, 3 Area the Sword; Newton Abbott the Brigg’s Dirk, City of Edinburgh the Rose Bowl and Torrevieija and Riyadh the overseas certificates. Well done to all!
The Chair of the SOC announced the fact that there were 69 delegates and the results of the elections. Area NCM DNCM 2 Allen Cox 5 Hammond - 6 Ridley - 7 Williams Warner 8 Godwin - 9 Crawford - 10 Wright Simmons (For one year only to balance elections) 11 McQueen Rooney Scotland Irvin McPhillips
The Hon Treasurer then took us through the Accounts for the 2016 Financial Year (not repeated here since the Accounts have been sent to branches). Uniquely there were no questions. Delegates appeared content with a sound financial performance underscored by good legacy income and investment performance.
The National Chair made his annual report of the NC to Conference, covering the details of 2016 and a bit of an update for the first half of 2017. He thanked the Scottish Area for hosting an excellent Reunion and Conference. He reflected on the good numbers of on-line joiners and a reduced rate of membership loss and announced that the National Council are setting a branch recruiting and retention group. He encouraged shipmates to support the Jutland Wood Project. He also covered the success of the Shipmates and Oppos programme, as well as Central Office Open Days. He was most complementary about Central Office and the support they provide. Again, no questions at the end of the presentation. The General Secretary gave an update on Project Semaphore and on the LIBOR buses, supported by Sarah Clewes and Branch Support Officer Alan McGrath. Alan mentioned the difference that going on-line has made to two of his candidates saying that the difference is heart-warming and heart-breaking too. The GS showed a video of the wheelchair ramp in operation on the first bus – and announced a ‘Name the Bus competition for Conference’.
Warrant Officer 1 Andy Stevenson gave a brief presentation on the great work of the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Charity, encouraging members to engage and contribute. The RNRMC is the RNA’s preferred charity.
After a soup and sandwich lunch provided by the City of Perth we moved onto the motions before Conference. The first three NC motions went through quickly and on very large majorities. One resolved a voting anomaly that had occurred last year, the second regularised the practice of branches using members from other branches as their delegates and finally a tidying up on the appointing of MA to Area committees and as delegates. The NC withdrew Motion 4 which looked to lower the age of AM below 18, but after a GS brief on the requirements of Safeguarding etc to manage children the motion was dropped.
There were 3 branch motions. The first invited NC to review the arrangements for Conference and with NC support went through on the nod. Motions to put a discussion period into Conference and to allow postal voting for AGMs both failed. A motion of urgency to hold the 2019 Conference in 6 Area was passed. Raffle results: 1st Runcorn Branch 3rd Huddersfield Branch 2nd S/M Coulston 4th Newark Branch Rum Raffle 1st S/M Reed 2nd S/M Clarke 3rd S/M Champion which raised £2,000 for the Jutland Wood Project.
Thirsty delegates repaired to the bar after the Conference was closed. The Gala Dinner followed, which was a first class buffet, with S/M Jimi Tubman winning the ‘Name the bus competition’ for his idea of modern naval heroes. Dancing and frolics followed and a late night for many (including our beloved National President). A wonderful Church Service followed on Sunday morning at St Johns Kirk with 22 standards parading, behind the Perth Pipe Band who were marvellous. The Lord Lieutenant and Provost joined us and Rev Ian Wheatley gave a brilliant sermon – many saying this was the best service for years – with the Kirk’s choir providing both an Introit and an Anthem. A leather-bound RNA New Testament was presented to all. A Salute by the VIPs and parade to the Black Watch memorial and the National President’s traditional end of Conference chat completeda marvellous weekend.