Last time it was 'Merry Christmas', this issue it is 'Happy New Year'. I think we all realise that 2008, with the loss of three of our members—Howard Spencer and George Heard who were recorded earlier in the year—and now Harry Leader DSM, who died suddenly on 28th December, made for a very sad ending to the year.
Harry, the bane of Branch Chairmen (I broke my favourite gavel trying to keep him quiet) had the gift of always rounding off a statement, a question, even an argument, with comedy. I welcomed his many interruptions; he always stood up to make his point and spelled it out straight to the Chairman in a clear, direct manner. Questions were incisive, criticisms were constructive and most opinions helpful. And he kept other members awake. A great performer among his messmates, yet getting him in a one-to-one discussion, many by telephone, I found him to be a rather different, deeply serious shipmate. But he always terminated with laughter between us. His funeral on 13th January was attended by many of his veteran shipmates, with at least an equal number of our Associate supporters, including three senior Sea Cadet officers. Two members of the City of London Sea Cadets Committee were also present, a confirmation of Harry’s popularity amongst all our members. During the service in the crowded church shipmate Charlie Smorthit, a longstanding friend, gave a touching eulogy for Harry. We shall miss him dearly.
Despite our sad losses, and constant reports of illnesses, 2008, must be considered a reasonably satisfactory year. We veterans are all well over 80 years of age now: as late teenagers/ or in our early twenties, we were all aware of the chance of sudden death every time we left harbour. That was a worry. Now, at 85, I consider that “death is nothing at all” and I have found that most of us have the same sentiment. So now we look forward to getting through 2009!
A few weeks ago we held our AGM and recruited two new members for our Committee. Pam Phillips kindly stepped in to replace Eddie, our Secretary for many years, and Ted Else was finally coaxed to take over from Douglas Elliott. Both received unanimous votes. Pam, a senior officer of the City of London Sea Cadets’ is particularly welcome: she is the first lady to serve and we now have an Associate member on our Committee. If we are to continue as a friendly bunch of ‘shipmates’ sharing an interest in all things nautical, especially in the crews of the ‘little ships’ of WW2, then age and attrition statistics show us that we must rely more and more on the help of our Associates. Pam is the first, and we welcome her. We must thank Ted and Pam for keeping our Committee up to strength. Without a full Committee we would quickly founder.
A few members possibly noticed that I did not attend the AGM. I was attending “a longstanding appointment in mid Atlantic “ (Two weeks in Tenerife. But even that discourtesy did not get me the sack, dammit!). On my return I was greeted with Eddie’s last shot at the Minutes of that meeting and I was pleased to see that Bill, our Social Secretary had been busy arranging a BELFAST SOCIAL for Sunday April 19.. Shipmates (£4 each, please) from other Branches are always welcome but please let Bill Fenton know names well beforehand (for security and refreshments reasons).
Our website continues to attract more interest and queries. Webmaster Ted is revelling in the extra work, so keep him busy with your enquiries. If any veteran wishes to get into print with an interesting article, then we would be pleased to consider it. As you know, periodically we are copying to this site one or two articles taken from our old CFVA Newsletters, but there are many untold stories still out there.
We were pleased to see that the excellent Journal “NAVY NEWS” has now given us a generous link on their site.
We have had little information from other CFVA Branches this time. Most are probably keeping their heads down during the cold season. Sailors? Where are they?
However, we were pleased to get a Report from Secretary Len Mears DSM of East Lancashire Branch. (They must be tougher up there). He referred to their recent annual ceremony at the Torpedo Memorial. Interestingly, in expressing pleasure to see “a good turnout of Sea Cadets as well as Branch members, including their CO.” he saw it as “ a good omen for when they take over this tradition when we are no longer able to do so”. Food for thought for other Branches.
Members will remember our disappointment in the months before decommissioning that we could not notify all CFVA members of our plans to keep members in touch by means of the internet. However, we have spoken to our big brother, the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust (CFHT) and, in a spirit of cooperation, their new Editor, Hugh Campbell, has put a helpful stop- press item in the current issue of their bi-annual Newsletter calling attention to our website.
This Magazine is received by many contributors (min. £10 pa) interested in Coastal Forces, and we hope this ‘plug’ will to pull in new readers to our site, especially those members of CFVA who are now out of touch. Unfortunately, the re- modelling of CFHT’s own website has been delayed by the illness and retirement of Director David Harris, but we hope to see a resumption of the CFHT site’s updating soon. Readers of their latest Newsletter will be pleased to see that Capt Trevor Robotham RN has returned to take over as Director. Some redistribution of jobs is taking place and we look forward to cooperating with their new webmaster.
We have recently received information that MTB 245 has been located.
Having to be moved from its current South Coast berth, ‘change of ownership’ negotiations are now underway and we are all hoping that the new owner will be able to return it to its former glory – as planned. We see dozens of WW2 RAF aircraft – bless ‘em - but there are precious few Navy craft on show.
Vice Chairman’s Report
I would like to wish everyone a happy healthy & prosperous New Year
First, the London Model Engineering Exhibition went off very well and I have some photos, if any of you would like a photo of the stand just Contact Us
Capt Trevor Robotham RN (CF Heritage Trust) and has informed me that the next CF plaque will be commemorated on Saturday 30th May ’09 at Ramsgate (on the Dockside) at 12:30 hrs. God willing I shall be there.
The next meeting on HMS Belfast is on 15th March 09.