On Friday 23rd February 2018, a funeral took place at the North Herts Crematorium, Holwell, Hitchin. The majority of mourners were former service personnel — mainly Royal Navy. Four Royal Naval Association Standards, and two HMS Ganges Association Standards, were being paraded in front of the hearse carrying shipmate Christopher John Weaver.
This was no ordinary funeral. There were no family members present, no long-term oppos from the Royal Navy, in fact most of the attendees had never met Chris — he wasn’t even a member of the Royal Naval Association. However, in words of the Royal Naval Association, Once Navy, Always Navy. Chris would be given the send-off that he deserved.
So, who was Chris Weaver? The summary of Chris’ life and hard times was presented to everyone during the service, the following is based on the eulogy read by shipmate Becky, daughter of shipmate Penny Jarvis, who had supported Chris for over two years.
Christopher John Weaver was born in Leeds on the 16th December 1945. He was employed as a Junior Salesman on leaving school, but in March 1962, he joined the Royal Navy as a boy rating at the Royal Naval Training establishment, HMS Ganges, in Ipswich.
In 1963, Chris was drafted to HMS Mercury where he was trained as a Junior Radio Operator. In December that year, he signed on for the usual 9 years, it was noted that since joining up, he had grown an inch to over 6 foot.
Chris continued training at HMS Pellew before returning to HMS Mercury in 1964. His first seagoing ship was HMS Devonshire, a guided missile destroyer. Whilst serving onboard, Chris was advanced to Radio Operator 2nd Class. A short draft back to HMS Mercury preceded a draft to HMS Dolphin where he qualified as a submariner.
In 1967, Chris was drafted to the Resolution Class nuclear submarine, HMS Renown, in Faslane. He was awarded his first Good Conduct Badge later that year. Three years later, Chris was drafted to HMS Resolution.
In 1971, Chris lost his first Good Conduct Badge after falling asleep on watch, he was also made an example of by being sent to RNDQs in Portsmouth. Chris was drafted to HMS Drake at Plymouth until 1972 when he joined HMS Ulster and finally released from the Royal Navy in December 1972.
In civvy life, little was known of his first few years, he was married at some point but later divorced. Chris may have had a stepson, but as far as everyone was aware, no children of his own.
Between 1986 and 2004, Chris had worked as a forklift driver at Crane’s, and also Victolic. He worked at ICL as a card works inspector, and eventually came to live in Letchworth. Sadly, Chris’ life took a downward turn, he was evicted from his home and ended up living in a bus shelter by the Bowling Green.
This was where shipmate Penny Jarvis got to know Chris.
Chris wasn’t a sad person, he had many friends over the years, he was regarded as a hard working man, and many had spoken highly of him. He was very proud of his naval career, loved rugby, hockey, and horse racing; he particularly enjoyed a pint and a bet on the horses.
Chris was extremely grateful of the support he received, Becky said in her eulogy, that Chris would have wanted her to thank all the people that helped him over the years, in particular, Coral – who took him in as a lodger for more months than she originally intended, and to the staff of Hitchin Shelter, who worked so hard to get him sorted and re-homed. In November last year, they got Chris his own flat, sadly it meant that he was not able to get into Letchworth each day to meet up with his friends, but he quickly found himself a local where he could go to enjoy a pint and to read his four newspapers daily.
Sadly, with the bad snowfall last year, he was returning to his new flat when he slipped and fell in the street. Chris was taken by ambulance to the Lister where a further problem was found with the circulation in his leg. Although they tried to rectify the problem, Chris’ leg had to be amputated, Chris’ condition deteriorated and sadly, he died on Saturday, 6th January.
As a former serviceman, Chris was entitled to a full naval funeral, shipmate Penny Jarvis contacted as many branches and associations as she could, resulting in a great turn out to send him off in style.
Chris’ journey does not end here, it is the intention that his ashes will be buried at sea – as an ex-submariner, he would be proud of that.
Chris may not have been known by many at his funeral, but he was a former sailor and it was with great pleasure to be a part of his final journey.
Once Navy, Always Navy…