On Saturday 1st November 2014, shipmates from Huntingdon & District Branch held their annual Trafalgar Day Dinner. The day began with shipmates Karl Webb and Pete Aston decorating the dining hall and foyer for the evening meal. As darkness fell, shipmates and their guests arrived at the Priory, Huntingdon’s Masonic Lodge, for pre-dinner drinks.
Guest of honour for the evening was the Mayor of Huntingdon, Councillor Bill Hensley. The Mayor regularly invites Huntingdon & District Branch members to community and civic events held in Huntingdon, the Town Hall, or the Market Square; this was the Branch members’ opportunity to show the Mayor how we celebrate important naval anniversaries and events.
Once all attendees had arrived, shipmate Ben Dear piped ‘Hands to Dinner’. Ben enjoys dressing for the occasion, this year he chose desert gear and anti-flash – well done Ben, always a great talking point.
Almost 40 members and guests, including shipmates from St Neots & District RNA, were at the dinner; this event is becoming a favourite gathering, but it is also likely to be the last at the Lodge (due to being on the market for sale).
After a three-course meal, it was time to start clearing the tables in preparation for the Loyal Toast. The bottle(s) of Pusser’s Rum were opened and placed inside the Rum Tub.
The ‘rum bosun’ for the evening was shipmate Andy Duthie, one of the Branch’s serving members. The Mayor was the first to receive his tot then shipmate Andy Duthie ensured that all ‘entitled’ ratings had their tot.
With everyone back at their seats, the Branch Chairman, shipmate Bill Small called for all to stand for the Loyal Toast.
As this was the Trafalgar Dinner, the Loyal Toast was followed by the Branch President, shipmate Graham Holt, giving the Toast to the Immortal Memory.
The Mayor of Huntingdon was invited to speak to the Branch. He thanked everyone for their invitation and gave a presentation on Lt John Pasco, Admiral Nelson’s Signal Lieutenant. The Mayor said that Nelson’s famous signal ‘England Expects Every Man Will Do His Duty’ was to state ‘Confides’, but in signal flags, this would have had to be spelt out in full whereas ‘Expects’ was in the signal book as a 2 letter hoist.
Following the Mayor’s presentation, the Branch Secretary, shipmate Karl Webb, thanked the Mayor for his history lesson, and said he too would speak on an historical event after a few short words. The Hon. Secretary spoke of three anniversaries; shipmate Sally Armstrong had joined the WRNS 70 years ago, the Association celebrated its 60th Anniversary (marked with the Dedication of the Naval Services Memorial), and the Branch Chaplain, Reverend Andrew Milton was celebrating 30 years since he was Ordained.
The Secretary then spoke of the sad loss of shipmates Spike Milligan and Grove Dove this year and how they will be sorely missed; he mentioned the Social Secretary’s wedding (to the Hon. Sec), and that three of the serving members, Gavin Twigden, James Langley and Adam Game were on the promotions signal this year.
The Secretary’s ‘history lesson’ was the anniversary of the Battle of Coronel on 1st November 1914, this being the night the dinner was being held.
Once the after dinner speeches had concluded, it was time for the Social Secretary and shipmate Marion Twigden to start selling tickets for the raffle whilst shipmates had a chance to refill their glasses.
The Mayor was asked to draw the first ticket…
With so many prizes available, the draw did take some time, but an amazing £190 was raised towards our charities and to go towards funding to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Branch’s formation in 2016 (with a new Standard and Dedication Ceremony).
As the evening drew to a close, a number of guests and shipmates departed; the remainder headed back to the bar for a couple of nightcaps before bringing the evening to a close.
Another successful Branch Dinner, and as the picture below shows, a busy one for the Committee Members, who were able to relax a little and cool down after overseeing a busy evening (thanks go to shipmate Nigel Huxtable for sending out the RNA dickie bow nice and early; the cummerbund was made by the Hon. Sec using the RNA Blazer Badge and a plain cummerbund – works well don’t you think?).
So, to all our guests, especially the Mayor of Huntingdon, and to our shipmates, a big thank you from the Committee. We look forward to next year and many more dinners to come, wherever they may be held.
To see more images from the Huntingdon & District Branch annual dinner, click on the first thumbnail below and scroll through the images.