Deck hockey. Tug o’war. Uckers. Croquet. All great Naval sports and pastimes.
Croquet, did we say? Yes, we did – and there is an elite band of shipmates in the West Country who would back us up on that.
On a sunny Sunday last month teams from Bodmin, Delabole and Liskeard branches in Cornwall met at Pencarrow House, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, for the Admiral Alec Weir Memorial Croquet Match.
The competitors and crowd revelled in the fine weather, and with Lady Iona Molesworth-St Aubyn, Ann Weir (Admiral Alec’s widow) and Delabole branch patron Helen Bull present the teams took to the field of battle.
There was a good turn-out at Pencarrow, including German visitors apparently keeping an eye open for Ross Poldark lookalikes – we are reliably informed that there were none to be found amongst the gathered shipmates…
The final results board matched last year’s, as Liskeard branch, featuring S/M Warwick ‘Six throwing’ Belfitt, took the honours, with Bodmin branch as runners-up.
Trophies were presented by Mrs Bull.
So what of those great Naval sports mentioned earlier?
Deck hockey – which can feature some interesting methods of preventing equipment going over the side, as well as varying levels of competitive spirit – has been played on flight decks for decades, while tug o’war had obvious parallels with Naval life in the sailing era, when teams of sailors hauled on ropes to raise sails or weigh anchor.
Uckers, a sophisticated (?) stablemate of Ludo with a language all its own, has been a messdeck favourite since at least Victorian times, and there are many variations in rules depending on which nation or arm of the Services is playing.
And croquet? As a fine example of Navy hoopmanship, look no further than Cdr Henry Hugh Gordon Stoker.
The Royal Naval office commanded Australian submarine AE2, taking her through the Dardanelles and into the Sea of Marmara in 1915, he was a (minor) star of the silver screen in the 1930s and 40s (World War 2 duties allowing), he was cousin to Dracula author Bram Stoker – and he was croquet champion of Ireland in 1962 at the age of 77.
Image courtesy Julie Jones.