Unfortunately, owing to the recent re-organisation of the Branch, the March edition of the Newsletter became slightly out of step with reporting Branch news. This edition includes brief reports from both March and May and hopefully will set us back on course.
To avoid confusion with Branch meeting dates, we have made changes to the Newsletter subtitles; the quarterly issues will now be published as Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring.
It is hoped that the style and content of the new newsletter will continue to develop, maintaining a focus for members unable to attend meetings and those not on-line. Later this year a 'Letters to the Editor' feature is planned. If you feel that you would like to contribute please drop us a line via this link: [email-obfuscate email="email@example.com"]
The branch meeting held on 22nd March proved very satisfactory, fifteen members being present, including one of our latest recruits James Stewart, whose late father, Robert, had served as a Telegraphist on MLs with Tex Baseley. James explained that his father had also served on Russian convoys. After demob he joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary and was wounded when his home was bombed by the IRA.
James will be an asset to the branch, although I expect he will not be a frequent visitor as he resides in Northern Ireland. However, we have many other members unable to attend our meetings, but we respect every one of them for their continued interest and loyalty. That is why we rank our newsletter a major item.
The business side of the meeting then centred on getting ourselves both legal and shipshape. We finally agreed our constitution, our branch meeting dates and successfully settled the major worry of providing sandwiches at meetings.
Contrasting my earlier fears of our financial state, our Treasurer, bless him, assured us that we were well solvent and looking forward to a steady improvement. Long may it last.
Our first newsletter had been well received and Editor Ted is preparing more improvements in the future.
Steve, with his Chairmanship of PASA's hat on, and after consultation with our committee, has arranged reciprocal associate membership of PASA and London Branch. PASA have generously agreed to contribute to our funds for their group's (non-voting rights) membership. We welcome them to our meetings.
Steve has kindly arranged for PASA to provide refreshments etc our annual Branch Social which will run concurrently with our 16th August branch meeting. Of special note, I am pleased that Vera has offered to organise a raffle. So please rummage through your attic and ditty boxes and bring along all sorts of interesting items to attract the punters. Remember, London Branch has a growing website to feed and our newsletter distribution costs are rising. And finally, Buckingham Palace has at last issued formal invitations to the Duke's Garden Party, complete with helpful travel information, for the six selected veterans. These invitations were a surprise to us and we had a very short deadline to meet. Should we receive invitations in later years we will be better prepared to notify all members in good time.
Our May branch meeting was fairly well attended by the usual stalwarts. The word stalwart leads me to say with much sadness that our old shipmate, Wallis Randall, is now spending his last days in a Nursing Home. Our thoughts reach out to wife Edna whose loyal support to Wallis, and us, despite her own physical disability, can best be described as ‘remarkable’. We wish her well.
On a happier note, our branch has received a wonderful and timely gift from an old acquaintance of the branch, Mr Hector Sheppard-Capurro and his son Christian who are close friends of Treasurer David. Both Christian and his dad are residents of Spain, no less. Hector was a WW2 soldier posted to Gibraltar, hoping for Franco to try an invasion. He acquired an interest in boats, a wife and the weather. Should have joined the Royal Navy but, in view of his very generous gift we'll forgive him. David has told me the story leading to their friendship. It is a remarkable one and he has promised (several times) to write it down for our newsletter. It will have to be a Special Edition.
We received reports that those who visited the Buckingham Palace Garden Party greatly enjoyed the experience, especially Vera and Eddie: they were invited to exchange a few words (and a handshake — a rare honour) with Prince Phillip.
This was the last meeting before the August branch meeting followed by the Sea Cadets Social at 1300 hrs. Our Sea Cadet friends will charge for refreshments but their labour is given free, bless 'em.
Working parties on Medusa take place each weekend by a dedicated bunch of volunteers – the Medusa Support Group. They carry out routine maintenance — touching up the paint, cleaning, tidying and refurbishing the (non-operational) Oerlikon guns. However once a year the ship needs a complete check up and overhaul, when it is lifted out of the water and thoroughly cleaned underneath and fresh anti-fouling paint applied. The following pictures show some of what was involved this year.
City of London Sea Cadets
Preparing for a Life Afloat
With the coming of the longer, warmer days the pace of Unit activities has accelerated. The Unit is currently at its accommodation-limited maximum of 40 cadets. The cadet training that takes place on parade nights follows the Sea Cadet Training Syllabus; this has hundreds of bite-sized modules that are designed to be delivered in a 40 to 50 minute session. These are pitched to an appropriate level for the stage of advancement of each group of cadets. So, for example, there is a specific syllabus for Able Cadet to Leading Cadet. Modules include a massive range of subjects, a few examples would be: Bends and Hitches, History of the Naval Uniform and First Aid Chest Pains. In the first three months of 2015 nearly 200 of these modules were passed. More specialised and advanced training takes place away from the Unit at District, Area and National courses. In the same period cadets and staff attended and passed 43 of these. For adults examples include Youth Development, RYA Safety Boat and Seamanship. Highlights from the cadets were Leading Cadet James passing his Marine Engineering (Electrical) on a one week national course in Weymouth and our own branch member Leading Cadet Alex passing his Royal Yacht Association Day Skipper Theory course at the London Area Off-Shore Boat Station at Walton-on-the-Naze. On the 1st and 2nd of April four cadets and three junior members of staff undertook their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition. The group operating as a self contained unit, with only distant oversight, navigated themselves around a 20 mile route, that they had planned on the Kent/East Sussex border, camping over night, cooking for themselves and carrying all their provisions and equipment. The external assessor phoned me after the expedition and described the group as “perfect in every respect”. A big well done to Able Cadets Zak and Teddy, Cadets Antony and Amanda, POs Jay and Emilia and Miss Gabrielle. A few days later, on the 4th April, almost the entire unit travelled to Norfolk for a week of cruising the Broads. Spread across five cabin cruisers the cadets not only undertook some syllabus training, practiced their rowing in the tenders and took turns at helming; they also had to follow a ship’s routine, doing boring but essential activities such as cleaning, cooking and washing up.
Coastal Forces Veterans Website
The Veteran's website, under the skilful stewardship of our Kevin, continues with themes for the recognition of special events and anniversaries.
A recent commemoration for World Poetry Day had the striking image of a deserted beachhead and a poem written by CFVA member (1871) Alfred Harris A/B AA3. [The original World Poetry Day piece]
15TH MGB FLOTILLA
Bonaparte Beach at Plouha, on the enemy occupied coast of Brittany, was the scene on moonless nights for secret operations carried out by boats of the 15TH MGB Special Service Flotilla based at Dartmouth, England.
Nine operations carried out at the beach ferried stores and agents to the French Resistance, including François Mitterrand, later President of France. The main objective though was the rescue of 135 shot down allied airmen, who had either escaped or evaded capture, and had been passed down one of several escape lines to the beach. The poem below was written by a former member of this clandestine flotilla, and manages to convey the drama and tension of those early morning extractions from under the noses of the Germans.
NIGHT MISSION 1944
Sombre and sleek she slipped through the water
closing the enemy occupied shore
Poised to evade the many that sought her
HM Motor Gun Boat was fighting her war
Low silhouette and camouflaged paintwork
special her purpose and secret her plan
Cloaked by the night and dark sea around her
on smooth silent engines so softly she ran
Action stations with eyes ever watchful
men sought the white of an enemy wake
Down in the waist the boat's crews were gathered
stowing the gear that the small boats would take
Reducing speed now stop both the engines
starting to roll as she slowly lost way
Charthouse and bridge both checking position
sure to locate the right spot in the bay
Glasses to shoreward watch for the signal
green glow that briefly shines through the night
Small boats are outboard in go the seamen
setting their course for the faint distant light
Clear the ship's side with a pull on the sweep oar
give way together, start in on the run
Muffled and greased the oars in their crutches
bowman and stroke oar dipping as one
Feel the surf catch her and race for the shoreline
out boat the oarsman, feet grip the sand
Turn her bows seaward hold fast to gunwales
senses alert to the danger at hand
Whisper of voices, forms in the darkness
quickly the cargo is moved up the beach
Crunch of feet running, American airmen
head for the small boats packed tightly in each
Into the surf with the boats overladen
heavy the pull with the oars digging deep
Seeing the mothership loom from the blackness
up ropes and scrambling nets hanging so steep
Lash up the small boats set course for England
feel the winds bite through soaking wet clothes
Welcome the dawn and first sight of Dartmouth
rig ship for port side to, all engines slow
Alfred F Harris (ex Seaman Gunner MGB 502) 15th Flotilla Special Service