Crossing the Bar: Shipmate Ben Dear
Huntingdon & District Branch have the sad duty to inform you that shipmate Ben Dear ‘Crossed the Bar’ on Saturday 23rd April 2016. Ben was a founder member, and first Standard Bearer, of the Branch and will be sorely missed by all that knew him.
Ben joined HMS Ganges on the 25th April 1966 for his basic training, he then joined HMS Cambridge and qualified as a gunnery rating. Ben’s sea time was spent onboard HMS Zulu, HMS Brighton, HMS Intrepid, and HMS Scylla. Shore bases included HMS St Vincent, HMS Excellent, HMS Pembroke, and HMS Nelson (where he was discharged on 25th September 1977).
After his time in the Royal Navy, Ben and a group of former Naval Service personnel looked towards maintaining the naval traditions and friendships forged whilst serving under the White Ensign. Ben was a founder member of the Huntingdon & District Branch of the Royal Naval Association, the Branch was commissioned on the 20th June 1981 with Ben as the first Standard Bearer.
Huntingdon RNA were a very active Branch, Ben and his first wife, Erica, were keen to support fundraising events, the Branch hosted parties for local children and often made the papers.
Being so far from the sea did not stop Branch members taking to the water, Huntingdon RNA were regularly represented at the annual Raft Race; sadly, with health & safety rules the Raft Race is no longer a part of Huntingdon’s annual celebrations.
A shoulder injury meant that Ben had to give up being Branch Standard Bearer, that did not stop him carrying out special roles for the RNA. He was our wreath layer at the annual Remembrance Day Service but his health meant he also had to give up that role in the last couple of years.
Ben may not have been able to carry out some of the more formal duties over recent years, but he enjoyed being part of the Branch and was determined to take part in all social and formal events whenever he could. At the Annual Trafalgar Day Dinner, Ben would always pipe ‘Hands to Dinner’, usually wearing different items of naval kit — much to the amusement of our members and guests, our dinners will never be the same without him.
Sadly, with his diagnosis of cancer, Ben had to step back from a lot of activities, but he was determined to get out and about whenever he could. It was great to see him at the VE Day celebrations in 2015.
Ben also made it to the 2015 Remembrance Day Parade, although he was confined to a wheelchair, he was determined to attend the service and it was especially good to be able to have a couple of traditional drinks with him after the parade.
One of Ben’s final wishes was to see the Branch Standard replaced, it was pretty heavy, and after being paraded for over 35 years, starting to look out of place with some of the more modern versions. Ben was consulted throughout the organisation of ordering a new Standard, and sorting out a shortened service in order to enable him to Parade the original Standard one last time. Sadly, he was not well enough to attend the Service, but was pleased to see the new Standard and to be a part of it being Dedicated and for the old one being Laid up at St Mary’s Church (where it was originally Dedicated in 1981).
Shipmates have been visiting Ben throughout his illness, often with some Pusser’s Rum at hand for an impromptu toast, for someone with a terminal illness, he showed great courage in his final months, a strong character who will be remembered by all those who met him. Sadly, Ben Crossed the Bar on St George’s Day, two days short of his 50th Anniversary since joining the RN, and also his wedding anniversary to Rose. Our thoughts are with Rose and Ben’s family at this sad time.
Rest in Peace shipmate, stand down, your watch is done.