“They” say that time flies. “They” are probably right! Is it because of our age that we cannot always remember what we did yesterday? But we can’t can we? How many times has someone asked what we did yesterday, or where we went, and the answer eludes us. We have to think hard and do not always get the answer right. It sometimes seems that yesterday was such a long time ago and we have moved on since then. Time has flown.
The writer of this piece lives in Hemel Hempstead. In earlier years a Branch of the Roiyal Naval Association was established in Hemel Hempstead and in many cases, largely unknown to one another, there were members attending who had served in Coastal Forces. We were, at that time, unaware of the existence of the Coastal Forces Veterans Association and had no central focus that would have bought the CF people together. Then we learnt that the CFVA did exist. Slowly, the CF members of the Hemel RNA began to meet at our local Royal British Legion once a month. Most joined the London Branch. There were around fourteen or so at the Legion. We still meet. On a regular basis. Our numbers are now normally three.
There is, and always will be strong bonds between those who served in the Royal Navy, but there is something a bit extra that exists between Coastal Forces people. It may be that crewing small, living and eating together in tight spaces and having to adjust to the fact that people are not all the same, we created small but tightly knit efficient fighting units, commanded in many cases by RNVR peacetime sailors, many of whom were not vastly senior in years than we, and who were more used to sailing on the Solent than engaging with those who did not share our way of life. Whilst we talk of the male of the species we must not forget to include in the bond those now elderly young ladies – we have some in the Branch – who provided shore based back up for those at sea, through their service in the WRNS.
And this highlights the fact that we are lucky that attendance on the Belfast has held up so well. Not all our members are able to travel to the meetings and we understand, and hope that in some small measure this newsletter helps to maintain a contact that would otherwise be lost.
On a closing note, members would have seen from the minutes of the last meeting that the AGM, in January, will see a change of Branch Secretary. Other demands on time necessitate the change. I would like to thank all those, who over the years, have expressed appreciation at being able to receive the Branch Newsletter. It has been a joint effort with other. And you cannot get rid of me – my next years subs have already been paid!
All good wishes for Xmas
Eddie Dibley. Sec.
Nb: These Newsletters are mainly for CFVA Branch veterans and are therefore rather ‘local’. Most of us do not enjoy computer literacy (yet) and copies are sent by post to Secretaries of existing Branches. To suit website viewers I have made some changes to my original Branch Report. I do not alter Reports from other Branches.
Greetings to shipmates of our surviving Branches and welcome to interested Internet browsers. This will be the only chance (apart from the customary Christmas Card sent to Branch heads) to wish you all a Happy Christmas and the hope that we all can survive yet another b***dy year.
Reading his article above, Secretary Eddie has taken a lovely nostalgic trip, but tinged with some sadness because events have necessitated his retirement. We all will miss his unflagging work for our Branch, and thankfully we will see him at our meetings whenever he can make it. Our Branch meetings are still well attended despite the difficulty of getting aboard HMS BELFAST.
It is quite a step from bus stops, train and underground stations. Even the car park is a good walk away. A while ago we did put in a request to have the ship moved to a more convenient berth but the sympathetic reply was “sorry”. But we still get about a dozen veterans attending, backed up by a similar number of our Associate members. Sometimes I wonder whether we could continue without the help and encouragement of our Associates and the City of London Sea Cadets.
Remembrance Sunday Service was well attended and, solely for our Branch members and friends, this was followed by the ‘arrangement’ which has now become an annual custom, of an invitation by the Sea Cadet Committee to enjoy ‘big eats’ and a few hours of chat in the Gun Room. For the third year running we were delighted to have Admiral Lord West and his wife call in for a cordial chat and a drink with us. He’s a busy lad and it is an honour that he finds time for us.
Our November Branch meeting followed on the sixteenth. At the meeting we discussed the problem of replacing Committee members, especially the vital post of Secretary. All Chairmen will have experienced the growing difficulty of replacing Committee members, especially when we are trying to coax octogenarians to give a hand. Undaunted, I am pleased with every member who just manages to attend and to share his friendship. However, I believe we have made a satisfactory temporary move to replace Eddie which we hope will be ratified at our AGM in January. With a bit of luck I might get a draft chit too.
We are also aware that many of our members cannot attend meetings but still keep an interest in our activities. Our Newsletter is about all we can do for them but I urge them to get hold of a g/grandson and ask him to look us up on our website and produce a printout. As our website readers know, we have a lot more space and cover an amazing range of CF matters. Better still shipmates, get a laptop for your next birthday. It, not too late to become a nerd. Beats television.
Of course London Branch members will have received the Minutes of our meeting which are much more detailed on the business of the Branch, and will be of little interest to others. This Newsletter is for the interest of all Branches and an amended copy and more to interest the ‘wide world’ will be posted on our web site. As I mentioned in an earlier Newsletter, the website committee is proposing to publish copies of articles written by our veterans which we think will be of interest to our readers. It has come as a surprise to me recently how our ‘exploits’ have become of interest to younger generations. My recent enquiries have led me to believe that many of us have, over the years, been asked by our children to write down some of our wartime experiences. But we are either too, lazy, modest, forgetful or just believe it would be of little interest to others. However, the other day my daughter cajoled me into giving a talk of my wartime experience to young students at my grandchildren’s school: from school time evacuee, rationing, air raids – the lot. The first time I have done such a thing. My daughter was in attendance and, at the end of my talk followed by a half- hour of questions she remarked, rather sadly, that my family had never been told any of it and “it was sad”. I tried to explain that I, like most of us, was shy of telling of those traumatic times and I was sorry.
But, just listen to us when we veterans are together! When talk of the muck and bullets, the rough seas, the gross exaggerations and especially the hilarious episodes, are in full flood! It’s enough to cause traumatic disorder in the ranks. So I am convinced that publication of some of the articles written by our shipmates in our National Newsletters would be of interest. Shipmates, we are history! Therefore we will be sorting out some articles for re-publication.
I have nothing to report from other Branch’s this month so I will again; wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.