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London Branch August 2009

Written by London Branch | Posted on 19th August 2009

Secretary's Report

It was pleasing to be re-installed at the July meeting as Branch Secretary, following a period of absence covering several months due to other commitments. During that period, the position of Branch Secretary was taken by Pam Phillips of the City of London Sea Cadets, who voluntarily stepped forward to fill the vacancy. Our thanks are extended to Pam for her efforts in so doing. Over the years we have enjoyed our association with the Sea Cadets on the Belfast. Pam‘s husband, Alan, is Lt. Cdr. SCC. and Pam is Lt. SCC. The sight of their uniforms, together with those of their younger charges, the Sea Cadets, never fails to bring back floods of memories of the days when we were proud to wear our own. There has always seemed a mysterious attraction about the Navy uniform. In my home town during the war (and it may have been so in many towns) if you boarded a bus in Navy uniform you would be totally ignored by the conductress when it came to paying fares. It was a bit disconcerting—it was as though you were not there. Enquiries indicated that the girls considered it unlucky to take fares from the Royal Navy. How far up the ladder of seniority this went was unclear, but it certainly worked with the lower deck uniforms. We found that this attraction also extended into other areas but details of these encounters have now, reluctantly, been consigned to the file marked "Memories" for only occasional reference. But I digress. Sorry! Back to Pam. Thank you again Pam, for all you have done. It is much appreciated and we will now try to hang on to you for as long as possible! And so to the July meeting. With no bad weather to deter members it was nice to see our shipmates again. We were pleased to see Colin Morris back after a spell of medical investigation. It was good to have Bill Clarke at the meeting again. A call to Bill MacAngus had revealed that he is still in and out of hospital, so things are not so good there. Dennis Reeve said that he and Sybil are finding it increasingly difficult to move around, he is waiting to attend hospital for an operation on his ankle. Doug Elliott says that he and Annette are getting, on reasonably well, all things considered. We haven't seen or heard anything of Sheila, one of our ex. Wrens, for a while, so we called. Sheila said that she is suffering severe pain now from arthritis in both legs which restricts her ability to get about and she did say that she could do with a strong pair of hands to carry out a spot of massage. So if there are any members within striking distance of where she lives, applications must be made through the Branch Committee as they feel that they have a Duty of Care to Sheila to see that she doesn’t fall into the wrong strong pair of hands. Our best wishes, Sheila. We hope things will improve. As time rolls on, more and more are finding difficulty in getting to Branch meetings. But don’t loose touch. Try to keep in contact with another member so that he or she can feed back information on how things are with you. Before the close of the meeting Ted Else gave an interesting insight into progress with the web site. Nobody would argue that interest in the web site among Branch members varies from slight interest to a lot of interest. At the lower end of the scale usually sit the ones who have no Internet access and include the ones {and to my sorrow must include the writer) who do not go down to the library to have a look. But this is a shame because from a very shaky amateur start, the web site has now progressed to what can only be described as professional standards, financed on a shoestring. From inception, not too long ago, the number of recorded hits has reached in excess of 15,000 - 2,000 of which have been received since the last meeting. So that could mean 15,000 people interested in Coastal Forces. Ted is currently in contact with a Mr. Kevin Costello, whose father was on ML's operating out of Freetown, W. Africa. Kevin is a 'wizard’ on the technicalities of website construction and is quite willing to offer his expertise to further the development of our site. And Ted is not one to let chances slip by. Using the ' Contact Us' page on the site a Mr. Brookman, who’s grandfather was on ML.168 was seeking information about 168 and Ted was able to direct him to another site which actually showed photos of 168 on the slips under construction all those years ago. So there you are. And there is much, much more. Worth looking into! ED. Secretary

Chairman’s Message

Several changes have been made since our last Branch meeting in May. One is visible: the heading for our Newsletter to Branches has been changed and I believe it is an improvement to see the white Ensign up there. Our own Branch Members receive a copy of our Minutes together with the Newsletter to Branches. All surviving CFVA Branches get a copy of that Newsletter, both to inform them of us, possibly give them encouragement as fellow shipmates, and in the hope that they will send a note, however brief, to let us know how they are faring. I am pleased to have received three Branch Reports: one from Secretary Harry Ley of East Anglia, one from Len Mears DSM of East Lancs regretting that he had fractured his leg while enjoying himself at the CFVA reunion and, partly as a consequence, their Branch Meeting had been cancelled. (I have since spoken to Len and he is slowly recovering, still housebound but cheerfully coping); and, finally, a copy of the South London Branch’s Minutes from Secretary Ron Harrison. Web site readers of course, see edited versions of these Reports, which omit some of the ‘family’ information but include extra material too costly to include in our Branches Newsletter. So, I’m afraid that those of our veterans who have not yet grasped the nettle lose out. In its short life our web site has received several accolades from on high, praising both its purpose and content. As we become known we receive increasing numbers of enquiries from relatives of veterans and other interested parties. Thanks largely to ex CFVA Librarian Wallis’s ‘local’ knowledge of CFVA veterans, and the experience of both Ted and Wallis in researching CF matters generally, we are able to help in most cases. Ted is busy trying to improve the web site and learning as he does so, but when I sing his praises, he emphasises that much of the improvement is down to Mr Kevin Costello, son of a CFVA veteran, and is always on hand to patiently give Ted seriously technical advice. All of us are grateful to ‘young’ Kevin: in fact, despite his geographical distance, he has recently accepted our invitation (plea!) to join our Web site Committee. Welcome, Kevin, and thank you I, and others, have been worried by the increasing workload we have allowed Vice Chairman Wallis to carry for too long, and during this period the Committee has arranged a partial redistribution of its work, with the effect of giving Wallis a breather. The reallocation was greatly eased by the return of Eddy to his old job as Secretary. Following the sad loss of his wife, he now has wisely sought some need to ‘busy’ himself, and we welcome him back. He has taken on Wallis’s work on the printing and distribution of our Branch Newsletter. We are grateful to Pam, (Lt Phillips SCC RNR) both for taking on the Secretary post when Eddy resigned, and graciously stepping aside on his return. If we are to continue much longer we will need a few more ‘Pam’s’ in the Branch. With some previous experience of the administration of the ship, she has now taken over Wallis’s job of corresponding with the various authorities regarding our meetings on HMS Belfast, including the necessary security matters. We are delighted to learn that her husband Alan Phillips Lt Cdr SCC RNR has been returned officially to the City of London Cadets Unit on HMS Belfast. Both are staunch Associate members of our Branch. Following the recent final visit to the Adriatic island of Vis, our old CF base, Peter Bickmore, the leader of the annual visits of remembrance and homage, has kindly agreed to reproduce HERE a copy of an article he wrote in 2005 relating to to our wartime activity in the Adriatic area. His article clearly illustrates the continuing dedication of we veterans in remembering our shipmates who did not return to their families, as we did. We remember them as young men in their late teens or early twenties, as we were then, living together, grumbling, homesick, joking, worrying, laughing, arguing, sharing, too often scared witless, but determined and united. “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old.” In the half hour prior to our Branch meeting, with the early birds enjoying the traditional serviceman’s insult exchanging routine, I chanced upon a shipmate whom we had not seen for a while. “Very pleased to see you, Nick”. Always polite and quietly spoken, Nick apologised for missing a Meeting or two and cheerfully announced the reason. He (almost proudly) gave me a quick burst of his ghastly ailments and operations, past and awaiting and promptly dismissed it all with a grin “Not bad for ninety- two though”? Ailments or no, up top he is 100% and belies his age by a score. Says something of the Navy training. On recovering, I continued our chat until his shipmate took over. In the early thirties Nick, as a Boy, joined the Andrew. Roughly at the same time, I joined the Infants. Therefore Nick was ‘in at the beginning’, when it was especially rough for the RN, but worse, he ended up in CF as Coxswain, with our Bernie as a crewmate on much battered MTB 24, based at Dover.. Say no more, but to listen them verbally sparring is an education. Nick always stands out in the Branch: we are a well disciplined bunch – all CFVA blazers and ties and not one baseball cap in sight - but Nick is always smarter (would have made a good Bootneck, but knew better). That lad should write a book. At 85 I thought I was ‘knocking on a bit’ but my little chat with Nick was a tonic and after the Meeting, when I stepped ashore I had a spring in my step….. well, with my good leg anyway. Ken Gadsdon

Vice Chairman’s Message

Hello to you all. Whilst I am revelling in my new found freedom it is with some regret that I found that I had nothing to do with the Newsletter. The only things I have to mention are the two things I mentioned two months ago so here we go. On 13°‘.September there is the Parade and Memorial Service at Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey. It is organised on behalf of the Swale D.C. and the R.N. Patrol Service by Queenborough & District Naval Ensign Association. The program is as follows: 13.30 Parade Muster, 13.45 Parade march off. 14.00 Memorial Service in Queenborough Park. 14.30 Parade & March Past, with salute taken outside the Guildhall. Then there is on Wednesday 14th October at 17.30 at St. Paul’s Cathedral: The Annual National Service for Seafarers. Please, if you haven’t already asked me for tickets please do so now as my application has to be in by the 1st. September. Have a nice Day Wallis