Our Secretary’s decision not to stand for re-election had been expected for some time but his formal announcement, given at the September branch meeting, certainly gave sobering notice that the London Branch could possibly no longer remain viable. Eddie, having first consulted with the committee, had made known his decision to stand down earlier in the year and it soon became apparent that the London Branch was at risk of foundering.
Such was the weight of dependence that had unwittingly been placed upon his shoulders over the years, it was now plain for all to see that it was only his dedication and unstinting hard work that had kept the branch functioning so well. His commitment, almost having been taken for granted, has left us with the realisation that a rest had probably been long overdue.
Well done Eddie, and Thank You!!
A long and happy retirement is certainly well deserved.
At that September meeting, with a new committee being proposed, it was decided not to continue with a plan for closing the branch.
The inevitable dwindling of membership, especially those able to travel to London, had been a topic for conversation at several recent branch meetings. It had been suggested that it may no longer be practical to continue with our bi-monthly arrangements on HMS Belfast; however, it is our intention to meet formally onboard at least three times a year. A final decision on future meeting dates will made at the March 2015 meeting.
For possible future plans, the branch constitution may require to be reviewed and brought up to date. Unfortunately, due to rising costs, subscriptions need to be increased.
Now for some good news!
We remain fully committed to maintaining membership contact via our postal newsletter. Beginning next year a new quarterly newsletter of similar style will continue to report on happenings within the branch, while for our non-computer members, occasionally it will also relate items of interest from the internet and website.
Editorials for future branch newsletters will be composed by members of a new editorial team, which should allow a wide range of writing styles, views and opinions to surface — be prepared!! Hopefully, the London Branch can continue with a bright and secure future.
At our October branch meeting we discussed the problem caused by the death of our Chairman, and the retirement of tireless Eddie, our Secretary for many years, who had decided that he was now tired and would retire at the year's end. This meant that unless a replacement administration committee could be formed by the end of the year, the branch would close.
But most branch members wanted the branch to continue, and so with that knowledge, urgent preparations for a new committee were made ready for our next branch meeting on 16th November.
During the interval before that meeting much preparatory work was done and six members were chosen to form a new committee. (And I thought that Press Gangs had been abolished!)
At the well attended branch meeting of the 16th, the structure and membership of the new committee was unanimously agreed. It was also agreed that important changes should be discussed.
First, the out-dated distinction between veterans and associates could be removed and, although our title will need to be retained for legal reasons, all members should be called ‘Members’ in future, and have the common aim both to enjoy the current shipmate fraternity and to strengthen public interest in the Navy's Light Coastal Forces short and violent history. The Coastal Forces Veterans website is a powerful partner in that latter intention.
The changes we are suggesting will require a rewrite of our constitution, recognising that veterans are gradually fading, and that interested supporters, will be both welcome and necessary. Careful preparation of the proposed new constitution will take time, but when completed it will be made available to all members for their approval/correction.
Members who can attend the Belfast realise their good fortune and are very mindful of those loyal members who are not able to attend. With my title of Temporary Acting (unpaid) Chairman, it is my intention is to make the newsletter, our link with all our shipmates, as interesting as possible.
Copying the success of our national newsletter, we hope to encourage members to send in an article, joke. Never mind the spelling and grammar clangers; we have bright young talent here to edit any contribution. So stand by.
Remembrance Day Service at Gosport
One of the features of Remembrance Day at the former HMS Hornet, is that we take HDML 1387 — Medusa — all of 200 yards from its base at Haslar Marina to be put on show. As part of the crew, I arrived midday Saturday to assist with this. I first realised this may be challenging when driving to Gosport, I saw the waves breaking over a sea-wall. The walk on the jetty to the boat was equally interesting — it was more like a fairground cake-walk. On seeing the boat, I was reminded of the comment by Geoffrey Searle when I asked about HDMLs — “They roll…Oh how they roll!”
I faced the challenge of getting on board. One second the boat would be hitting the jetty, the next it was 4 feet away, while still tied up! I waited for the impact, threw on holdall, then sleeping bag and finally me and joined the others in the lurching boat. The skipper looked at the weather forecast and decided that discretion is the better part of valour — postpone the trip to the morning and hope for calmer weather, meanwhile open a bottle of rum. That evening some of us crossed ‘Pneumonia Bridge’ to HMS Hornet for a very good meal, while others tried their luck at a well known pub chain. They discovered the guest ale was 7.5% and indulged. On return, their digestive systems could not cope with the ale, diesel and violently rocking boats. I needn’t spell out the consequences!
Sunday was much calmer, we were able to move the boat easily and took up position at Hornet. There was a moving service, attended by RN and CFVA (Southern Branch) and representatives from Australia, Canada, USA, Norway, India, France and the Netherlands. Several of these visited Medusa afterwards. We didn’t return directly to Haslar, but took the opportunity for a tour of Portsmouth Harbour in the by now, beautiful weather.