To foster the spirit of comradeship which existed in both Wars. Times may change and we with them but friendship changes never.

These were the challenges set before us by our founder C.P.O. Coxswain Gordon Stevens DSM in the formation of the Coastal Forces Veterans Association. With the help of local Radio and Newspapers Gordon Stevens and 16 interested locals from the Portsmouth area met in the Florence Hotel Southsea on April 19th 1974 and after a whip round and the collection of some £38.50 the reunion of shipmates who served in Light Coastal Forces was launched, a voyage that was to change the lives of many and create interest around the world where Coastal Forces were based during WW2

It was in May 1974 that I was made aware of what was to become for me, and many others a new horizon. It was the Saturday Radio 2 Charlie Chester Programme where he announced that a group of matelots in the Portsmouth area were seeking sailors who served in Little Ships during the war to form an association “to swap a few yarns” and “ah yes! I was there”. This request was heard by my wife Doreen as I was at work at the time. I then contacted the BBC who gave me the information of the contacts in Portsmouth I needed and immediately enrolled and became Member No 29.

The first meeting took place on July 7th at the Royal Navy Club Lake Road Portsmouth as noted in the published minutes, a small piece of business was conducted with the election of a Chairman Gordon Stevens, taking the helm, with Tom Neil, and Bill Lovegrove volunteering for Secretary and Treasurer duties and the setting up of the Boat committee, Harold Newton John Dorey, and others who were co-opted on the way. So to the inaugural meeting that took place on September 29th in the Victory Club at H.M.S. Nelson Portsmouth, the day that the Coastal Forces Veterans Association set sail, ensuring for the next 33 years shipmates would be re-united and new shipmates and families would bond together in that same spirit of comradeship. It was at this meeting we were privileged to welcome and install as our first President, Capt. Peter Dickens D.S.O.D.S.C. R.N. Rtd . Whose support we greatly appreciated in those early days of the Association.

Memories of that first meeting

After some 30 years since we picked up our demob suits, raincoat and trilby hats, along with our War Gratuity & Post War Credit of Wages statement, we approached this meeting with some apprehension, would we recognise anyone, who could be there, so armed with our precious black and white photographs some a bit rough around the edges, our memories of Portsmouth somehow prepared us for what was to become the beginning of a new and nostalgic chapter in our life. With the committee now in place and the decision taken for a voluntary subscription of £1 per year to cover costs of stationery, printing and postage we were now under way. Recruitment at that stage had been very good despite the limited means of communication available and the turnout was good, with a coach party from Birmingham, and groups from London, Ramsgate, Cornwall and East Anglia areas there to be the pioneers in the formation of Branches of the Association that ended with 20 throughout the Country.

Among the many coming together of shipmates, I well recall the meeting of Capt Peter Dickens and his Coxn. Jim Saunders DSM of MTB 234. It was at this meeting we were informed that MTB 234 had been rescued from the mud at Swanwick nr Fareham We were also informed that MGB 55 had been located in the Porchester area and was to become the headquarters and a floating hotel for members when the re-fit and renovations are completed.

An interesting report in the Newsletter No 5 dated January 1975 on MTB 234. After two alterations of dates owing to weather, tides, and worried brows whether she would stand the voyage, we had a short telephone call from the Yacht Services Riverside, Burleson, that MTB 234 would be tow her off the mud, and put her moorings in the trot, and tow from Bursledon to Portsmouth on 9th October, So off we went 9 of us including Capt Dickens complete with heavy weather gear, life jackets, sandwiches, coffee, and also bless their hearts, rum provided by Capt Dickens and his Coxn. Jim Saunders armed with a 2" bore pump (which we needed) and I am glad to say a smooth passage. The boat came off the mud and apart from shipping some water she behaved herself round to Forton Lake as if glad to be home. So all our fears of breaking her back and a swim in October were unfounded. The only irony of the whole task was our towing vessel was an E-boat recovery vessel. We took great pride in that MTB 234’s original commissioning pennant and our own CFVA pennant were hoisted at the masthead for all to see. The Boat Committee have had a couple of “Bath Nights” when she dragged her mooring in a force 9 gale at 9:00pm wrestling with wind and rain with torches, it is not good for Veterans, but we made it, and now MTB 234 is safe up on the mud at the rear of St Vincent, until the spring. Sadly in spite of all the support of many interested organisations and the dedication of the Boat Committee to restore her, she was scrapped in April 1978.

Newsletter No 4 July 1975

MGB 55 is berthed at Portchester under the shadow of Portchester Castle. It is stern to the footpath in a tidal berth. This will become not only our working headquarters but a floating hotel for any member and his family or friends after payment of a fee to cover expenses. When the re-fit and renovations are complete it will be possible to sleep 10 people in two double cabins.

What a Vision

Newsletter December 1977

The gallant little band of helpers (same ones every time) have been giving their Wednesday evenings and any spare time during the summer are beginning to see something for their efforts, although we are very far from completion. The gale force winds have created problems, but the generosity of John Paddon from Shepton Mallet and Bill Mitchell from Kent in donating mooring chains we have been able to make her more secure, and I’m afraid that for the next few months our main concern will be keeping that way.

The above quotes from the Newsletters gives some indication of the total dedication of those early trailblazers who with selfish energy and commitment laid down the keel on which the Coastal Forces Veterans Association was built and launched.

To the Boat Committee John Dorey - Harold Newton - Ernie White and the many other helpers “WELL DONE”

Now to the good news as reported in Newsletter No.18 June 1978. A proposal was put forward and approved at the AGM to form a partnership with TS Tenacity the local Branch of the Nautical Training Corps under the command of Commander Roy Cook this enabled us to support the younger seafaring generation and witness the discipline of those nautical moments and memories that would be the encouragement for the future for us all. This partnership was valued and appreciated by other Branches who took the opportunity to involve their own local Navy Training Cadets in the footprint of what was to become a successful reunion for those who served on little ships.

Now to the Branches which would became the life blood in the success of the Association and their formation would be liken to the assembling of the crew, that will ensure a happy ship. With that same enthusiasm demonstrated at the meeting we returned home to carry on the recruitment and the forming of Branches throughout the U.K. armed with the information of names and addresses published in the Newssheet, contact was made with those within range and meetings took place in local RN Clubs Royal British Legion Clubs and Community Halls. For the London Branch it was at a local Hotel in Brentwood on 2 February 1976, with the setting up of a committee—Jim Saunders Chairman—Sid Dobson Secretary—Jim Kellman Treasurer. From this small gathering the London Branch was created, and later able to secure a Meeting place in London at Tenter House where later National Committee meetings were held. It was situations such as this and the generosity of many benefactors that enabled the C.F.V.A., to proceed along with limited financial resources available, and the great enthusiasm for its success.

On reflection the office work was achieved on the kitchen table with a portable typewriter usually with the assistance of one’s Wife who had some previous experience of office work and copies only available with the insertion of the blue copy paper always ensuring it was the right way round.

A.G.M. June 1980 National Headquarters Portsmouth On to our crowning glory with the design of our National Standard now approved and registered at the College of Arms. The Standard was dedicated at St Anne's Church HM Naval Base Portsmouth on Sunday 10th May 1981. The service was conducted by Reverend Noel Jones BA Royal Navy in the presence of Rear Admiral AS Tippet supported standards of the local Royal British Legion, Royal Naval Association and Cadets.

Looking back through the Newsletters, 1981 was a year of great activity and progress for the CFVA. It heralded the start of reunions and AGM’s becoming weekend meetings instead of the away-day get together at Portsmouth. The first away venue was at Rockside Hall part of the Matlock College of Education and hosted by the North Midlands Branch.Its huge success paved the way for our Annual weekend away reunions at Holiday Camps at Lowestoft and Hayling Island hosted alternately by Anglian and Southern Branch which gave us a great opportunity for Shipmates and their Families to enjoy that great bond of friendship that was growing. Sadly after 126 Quarterly Newsletters over those 33 years and with the last New Member No 3448 being announced, the time came for our Decommissioning and the laying up of our Standard. This ceremony most fittingly taking place at the main Coastal Force Base HMS Hornet in Gosport on April 18th 2007, a base that will always be recalled as home for those who served in Coastal Forces. Looking back on those 33 years of the Coastal Forces Veterans Association the timing of its inception in 1974 was fitting, coming some 30 years after the ending of WW2 when at that time, we wanted to leave it all behind, revive our family life and to cope with the re-adjustments that befell us including work finance and for many of us marriage and the setting up of a home and Family. Come 1974 with the family grown up and a little more cash in our back pocket the time was right to resume and savour those times of comradeship again.

Peter Bickmore