Thinking about it, we at the London Branch have been pretty fortunate over many years in having at our disposal venues where we were able to hold our bi-monthly meetings—not easily arranged in Central London. Some years ago when one of our members, who through having contact with someone holding a senior position in a well known Company, managed to secure permission to hold our meetings within their office complex on specified Sundays using a designated area whilst staff were absent. This continued for many years, but our arrangement, to our great regret, came to an end when the Company had to relocate elsewhere in the County.
Our venue is now HMS Belfast and we are indebted to those on board for allowing our meetings to take place there. The Belfast, permanently moored between London Bridge and Tower Bridge is a part of the Imperial War Museum and attracts visitors from all over the world, many of whom are well aware of the contribution that she and her crew gave to the war effort as a Royal Navy Cruiser during WW2. In fact, around the Belfast the whole area is steeped in history. Tower Bridge dominates, a tribute to latter day architects and engineers as cars, buses, tourists cross and re-cross, the flow only halted when the bridge opens to allow ships passage. We can also see some of the latest architectural “gems” of recent years, and in the view of some, they are probably destined to last no longer than the next fad in the design and shape of office accommodation.
But across the Thames on its north bank stands an edifice that has stood the ravages of time and the intrigues of the many Kings and Queens who ruled over the years since 1066 when William the Conqueror was victorious at the battle of Hastings and marched his army to London where he ordered the earthworks of a castle to be laid down. In 1078 he ordered the building of a great stone keep—the White Tower on the site—intended to strike fear into the hearts of any subversive Londoners. It stands to this day. We are indeed fortunate in our venue.
Our Branch meeting was scheduled for its usual time—third Sunday of July. It is, of course, very doubtful whether this fact will be recorded in the annals of history, unlike those of William the Conqueror, but we wish to make use of this slot to record for posterity that the meeting did occur on the 20th July in the year of 2008.
We had a good attendance. Of those unable to be present we are glad to say that Harry Leader has been out of hospital for a while and is doing well. He sounded full of life and well on the road to recovery and sounded just like his old self. He said that he was having regular visits from a nurse to see that he was alright. Hmmm!
Sybil and Dennis Reeve’s problems are not getting any better and they both experience great difficulty in walking and generally moving about which puts a stop on attending meetings. Bill MacAngus is still waiting in the queue for the operation on his spine and is in a similar situation. Our best wishes go out to them.
As mentioned in the minutes covering our May meeting, a letter had been sent to the Deputy Director of the Belfast to see if it would be possible to stow our wheelchair somewhere on board. This enquiry has revealed the fact that there are two chairs available on the Belfast for visitors already (our fault for not enquiring earlier) so that we now have three chairs at our disposal – two on the Belfast and one under wraps ready for the use of any member when required.
Another CFVA member has been enrolled into the London Branch, Albert Hughes, and this is in keeping with our aim to welcome any ex CFVA shipmates to do the same, irrespective of whether they live within our catchment area or beyond. This newsletter helps with communication and we must thank our Vice Chairman for undertaking the job of distribution by taking on the role of copying, putting in envelopes, sticking on stamps and going along to the post box. It all has to be done!
The web site is making progress, with the number of hits showing an increase week by week. Ted Else is untiring in his efforts to make a success of the site (within a budget) and many contacts have been made relating to Coastal Forces. The site is assuming professional standards.
A reminder of the proposal to include email addresses on the Branch members list. As a trial run, the format of the Members List has been altered to accommodate the additional address, and if enough members wish to have their addresses included, new issues will have the additional information. Addresses can be mailed to Ken Gadsdon—firstname.lastname@example.org—or by post to the Branch Sec. Don’t leave it too long or the whole thing gets a bit disjointed!
At our last meeting Peter Bickmore brought with him an excellently presented compilation of reports covering activities by Coastal Forces on and around the island of Vis in the Adriatic. CF involvement commenced in October 1943 when three 70ft MTBs entered the harbour of Vis under cover of darkness to rendezvous with some of Tito’s Partisans…
The other day I had a telephone chat with one of out ‘distant’ (Maidstone) members, shipmate Gerald Fenner, to ask him to give us a few words about his time in the Navy. Immediately he felt he had to apologise for not serving in Coastal Forces until after the war.
I have always found that what and at what level he had served in, had never made a difference in the of friendship among members of the Navy’s Coastal Forces. It was made up of men and Wrens serving in, or for, the Navy’s ' little ships’ and that has always been the unforgettable tie. Gerald has to agree.
He had been a Bunting Tosser on ML 595, skippered by Lt Bob Gaunt and, during his service (1947/48) on her, the crew, including six navy divers, was employed in locating and removing Mines and other underwater explosive devices that had been planted in areas deemed to be attractive to German invasion plans. Gerald was demobbed in 1948.
Prior to joining the Navy Gerald had been a Sea Cadet and was pleased to note in our Newsletters the close comradeship London Branch shared with the City of London Sea Cadets, who are also based on HMS Belfast. For 20 years Gerald has been caring for Evelyn, his ailing wife, and now he too is housebound with spine trouble, but he is still chirpy and enjoys reading our Branch Newsletters posted to all our members.
I told him that our web site included copies of Reports from other contributing Branches and, although he is not a computer man, I explained that a copy of our latest news was published every two months following our Branch Meeting and could easily be read and printed out if he asked any computer nerd. I agreed to let him have our web site address as he has a computer-wise daughter www.cfv.org.uk I shall send him a print out of our latest issue and hope it wets his appetite. It was pleasure to ‘meet’ him and I do hope some of our members will find time to have a word.
At our July meeting shipmate Peter Bickmore showed me a 14 page leather bound journal which he names the CFVA Log Book 1974 -2007. It includes names of all those who held office in CFVA during its existence and a copy of our first National Newsletter. He intends presenting copies of this handsomely bound record to the Imperial War Museum, the Hornet Sailing Club—to be shown alongside our Standard there—and the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust exhibits at the Naval Museum Portsmouth. Soft-backed copies can be made available, at cost, by applying to Peter, who, we will remember, had been a popular National Chairman and Secretary of the CFVA for some years. Coastal Forces veterans of CFVA must be grateful to Peter for his single-handed effort to put together this Log Book for permanent historical record.
I was pleased to receive the latest copy of our Heritage Trust Newsletter recently and note with pleasure that a few veterans are making the effort to send an article in for publication. It is up to us to develop a veteran ‘slot’ in this Newsletter. It now the only means of veterans keeping in touch and there are a lot of lonely CF sailors out there. I am disappointed that the Newsletter has yet made no mention of our attempt to keep in touch electronically. Our web site experience has surprised us by the outside interest shown in CF veterans but, as we foresaw, our circulation is limited to those with access to the Internet and, sadly, CFVA members were not informed of our enterprise when the opportunity was available.
It is becoming more difficult to arrange holiday breaks to cater for our members. First, we are scattered over a wide area; secondly, holidays are becoming more expensive; and then there is the small matter of increasing ages. So, despite the efforts of Bill Fenton, our Social Secretary, this year it seems we will have to settle for our usual Social on board and the Deputy Director IWM has given us permission. Tickets, including refreshments supplied by our Sea Cadets, are £4 pp and they also run a bar. Sunday September 7th 2008 1200-1700hrs approx. Including friends and partners we usually muster about 40, CF veterans from elsewhere would be welcomed but if you wish to come I ask you please e-mail particulars well beforehand. For a variety of reasons, including security, casual visitors to our Social would not be allowed past the gangway.
I am pleased to include Reports from other friendly Branches but first, a Report from our Vice Chairman, Wallis.
Vice Chairman’s Report:
First and foremost, there is a service of Remembrance and a parade at Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey on the 7th. September 08. The program is as follows -
This is all in memorial of HMS Wildfire III which was a Minesweeping Base during WW2. Following this there will be a reception at the Borough Hall, Main Road, Queenborough. Transport to the hall has been arranged, if needed. The Guildhall Museum will be open on the day, managed by the Queenborough Society, which will be displaying many artefacts from Wildfire III. In the past it has proved well worth a visit—unfortunately this clashes with a social on board HMS Belfast so I will be unable to go.
The next event is The Annual National Service For Seafarers, which takes place in St. Paul’s Cathedral at 17.30 hrs Wednesday 15th October, 2008. As the application for tickets has to be in by 1st September, please ring me on *** ASAP at least before the end of August ‘08. This is a lovely Service and well worth attending.
That is all for now, please get in touch if you need any more info.
“Hands to bathe and skylark over the ships side”
Keep well and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. That gives you plenty of scope.
- 13.30 muster, outside The Holy Trinity Church, High St., Queenborough.
- 13.45 Parade march off.
- 14.00 Memorial Service in Queenborough Park
- 14.30 Parade and March Past, with salute taken outside the Guildhall.
North Eastern Branch
Not a Branch Report this time, but Secretary Moss Evans has written to London Branch to express his appreciation for sending our Newsletters to his Branch. The kind and thoughtful soul that he is, he enclosed a packet of postage stamps ‘to help with our finances’. Quite unnecessary, but what a lovely bloke!
Our Secretary has written back, but I thought I would share his kindness around - but please- we do not need postage money - it is a pleasure to keep in touch. And I will arrange to print off and post to dear Moss a copy of our latest Web site edition, for interest. Moss has been costing the NHS Hospitals a fortune lately - (and why not? He’s paid for it) - but despite his problems he found time to wish us all well.
That’s about all for this edition