On Saturday 20th June 1981, Huntingdon & District Branch was Commissioned. Their new Standard was Dedicated in St Mary’s Church, Huntingdon. On Sunday 10th January 2016, 35 years later, a Laying-up ceremony and subsequent Dedication ceremony took place in the same church.
On the day of the Branch’s original Standard Dedication, Standard Bearers from the Royal Naval Association, Royal British Legion and other regional military associations, gathered outside of the Huntingdon Fire Station with their Branch Standards. Shipmate Ben Dear was the Standard Bearer for Huntingdon & District — a role he held for over 20 years.
Today, shipmate Ben Dear is a Life Member of the Branch, and although he had to retire from the role of Standard Bearer (due to a shoulder injury) he wanted to be part of the ceremony to lay up the old Standard and to see the new one being paraded for the first time. Due to Ben’s medical condition, Huntingdon shipmates decided that the Laying up ceremony, and Dedication of the new Standard, would only be attended by Branch members and a few guests (including three members of St Neots Branch). The Service would be kept short but would follow RNA ceremonial guidelines where possible. There would be no parade through the Town, but a few celebration drinks would take place on completion.
Since the Branch commisioned, only four shipmates have Paraded the Standard, shipmates Ben Dear, Dave Rowland (original deputy), Bill Small, and Karl Webb (current deputy), Dave Rowland does not live in the area anymore (although he did send his best wishes for the day), so the plan of action was for shipmate Ben Dear to parade the old Standard one last time, shipmate Bill Small would parade the new Standard, and shipmate Karl Webb would act as escort. Sadly, on the day of the service, shipmate Ben Dear was not well enough to attend, so shipmate Karl Webb stood in for Ben.
The service began with shipmates taking their seats in the church, the vicar of St Mary’s and All Saints churches in Huntingdon (and also the Huntingdon Branch Hon. Chaplain), Reverend Andrew Milton, welcomed everyone to St Mary’s.
After the welcome, shipmates stood for the first hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save, during the second verse, the Standards were slow marched down the aisle to the lecturn where Reverend Andrew Milton would give the First Bidding.
As this was a modified Order of Service, once the First Bidding, and acceptance of the Standard confirmed by the Padre, the Standards were taken to the Altar where the old Standard was placed upon it, the last time it would be paraded in public.
Reverend Andrew Milton and shipmates Bill Small and Karl Webb then brought the new Standard back to the lecturn for the Second Bidding and Act of Dedication.
All shipmates took part in the Blessing and pledge to honour the new Standard.
The new Standard was then taken to the Altar and placed upon it with the old as the rest of the service, prayers, Last Post and a minutes’ silence observed before the 23rd Psalm was sung.
For the closing part of the service, the new Standard was recovered from the Altar and brought to the lecturn for the Benediction and finally, the National Anthem.
With the service complete, Standard Bearers, escort, and Committee members gathered outside for a traditional tot of Pusser’s Rum (with some saved for shipmates Ben and Rose Dear).
In true naval style, shipmates then proceeded ashore for a few wets in the Market Inn followed by the Falcon Inn.
Overall, for a shortened Service, the day was a real success due to the hard work of the Branch Treasurer, shipmate Pete Aston, and of course though the particpation of our Branch members, especially with the support and consultation from shipmate Ben Dear, who despite his illness, was the driving force behind the desire to bring in a new Standard. BZ shipmates.