In view of our advancing years we must expect sad losses and this time we received the news that Eddie Dibley’s wife, Rene, had died peacefully on Sunday 8th April. Eddie had retired from his job as Secretary in order to spend his time caring for Rene during her long illness. She was a popular member of our Branch and this was evident at her funeral where many of our members were among the crowded service.
For many years they have been attending rather boring meetings and reunions, always accepting that in the company of other matelots they will be in the background. However hard they try, they can never feel the experience of small boat warfare, the camaraderie, the nautical jargon, which we veterans can never forget.
They are ‘outsiders’: yet I believe they realise what a help it is for us to meet and recall those wartime days, (perhaps a long- postponed release from our own form of traumatic disorder?), and quietly give their constant support. Super counsellors without paper qualifications or pay. Bless them.
Our Branch meeting on 16th March was ‘different’. Through our website we had received a request by students from a London University. They are researching how and why those who are in constant danger often adopt lucky charms etc and are planning to make a short documentary film of their findings. They have collected instances from soldiers, from air crews and from the Imperial War Museum’s records. Now it was the sailors turn and, (naturally!) we came within their sights. At my suggestion two students arranged to attend our Branch meeting. Unfortunately the head researcher, Ronan, was unwell and his assistant, Liberty, arrived alone. I was pleased and relieved to find that, with Liberty sitting as an observer at the back, the meeting itself was much improved. Even Charlie Smorthit behaved himself. Sort of.
The business of the meeting over, Liberty explained to members the reason for her visit. On our retirement to the ‘Captain’s Cabin’ for refreshments, Liberty, an attractive and pleasant young lady, had the lads queuing up to tell her of their experience. If some hadn’t a lucky charm back in the forties I suspect they soon invented one.
We were pleased to see Harry’s widow attend for a while, mainly to thank us for the support given to her. It wasn’t easy for her to come: Harry would have been proud of her. We were relieved to learn that Bill Clarke had been tracked down following his spell in hospital and I have written to him via his daughter.
We have received an invitation to attend the annual reunion of our friends the enemy, veterans of the Kriegsmarine’s Schnellboot Flotillas. I have expressed our pleasure at receiving the invitation but had to reply that I, personally, was unfit this time but hoped that a few regulars would be able to attend. The warm welcome we receive at their reunions is always a heart-warming experience.
Several Branch members will attend the bi-annual meeting of the South Group of Coastal Forces veterans and supporters. We will meet at the Cooden Beach Hotel, Bexhill on 23rd April. A good lunch and in good company. Sadly, their Chairman, Bob Drayson, died last October. Bob, as CO of MTB 236, sank the German Armed Raider Komet sneaking through the Channel on its intended sortie into the Atlantic.
We have been informed by Trevor Robotham that David Harris, recent Director of The Heritage Trust had died and that Trevor has returned as Director. David will be a sad loss to us too, as we were beginning to develop a rapport, especially on website matters. We were trying to arrange his attendance at a Branch meeting, to update us on The Heritage Trust progress, but his sudden illness forestalled our plans.
I was disappointed with the lack of interest in our Social Secretary’s offer to arrange a four-night holiday to Eastbourne in the autumn, but I must accept that, at our age and lack of mobility in many of us, we should limit our breaks to one- day jaunts in future. However, I am sure that the Social on HMS Belfast planned for 19th April will be well attended. I’ve heard a buzz that Bernie will be organising a session of Line Dancing on the quarterdeck, if the sea isn’t too rough.
Our Website is attracting an increasing number of enquiries to which we have been able to answer almost all satisfactorily, mainly thanks to Wallis’s vast CF knowledge and Ted’s internet research ability. London Branch regularly gets messages of goodwill and congratulations for our enterprise. Not bad for a bunch of octogenarians! And all willingly paid for (£50 pa) by London Branch. The hours spent is free, and a pleasure. It is a real pity that some of our members are too timid to try reaching our website. Any public library would be glad to help. Try it. At least 40 pages of interesting up-to-the minute articles.
Ted’s latest trick has been to develop a simple chat area, named after the WT Office of old. Already it is attracting interest. As it is open for all to add their comments Ted is vetting the input very carefully. Let us hope common sense and decency prevails.
Treasurer John gave us a good report on our finances. Although we are not rolling in money, we are solvent and there seems to be no need, at the moment, to join the queue to Mr Darling for a handout.
At our Meeting I stated that we should decide, and soon, what to do about our funds, if any, left when we decommission. I hope that event will be years away, but we should be prepared. Ever the good Scout. I am aware that a growing number of our departed shipmates have been deprived of the chance to give their opinion and they too contributed to the funds we hold. It is a form of Will, which can never be made too soon. Decisions can always be changed according to changed circumstances. Think about it and have your say at the next Meeting.
We were pleased to receive a copy of the Minutes of the East Lancashire Branch Meeting of 18th January 2009. A brief resume is written below and will be posted, together with ours on our web site for the world to see. Thank you shipmates of East Lancs.
Vice Chairman’s Message
Congratulations to Bob Fox and his team for winning First Prize for Layout and Presentation of their stall at the recent London Model Engineering Exhibition held at Alexandra Palace.
And don’t forget our Social to be held on board HMS Belfast on 19th April!