“Pull up a bollard shippers and pin yer lug-oles back. Here’s a yarn about our beginnings…”
The Minewarfare Association is relatively a young association, having in 2018 celebrated its tenth anniversary; however, it has much deeper roots having been preceded for many years by an annual re-union.On the transfer of the Minewarfare School from HMS Nelson (Gunwharf), formally HMS Vernon, to HMS Dryad in 1995, the Mine Warfare branch went through a transformation as we joined our other warfare brethren to form part of the Maritime Warfare School. Inevitably training courses came under deep scrutiny as they were integrated into the new system and the structure of courses changed. In particular, in an ever-challenging financial environment a review of course expenditure was carried out and external training involving travel and subsistence was removed. In 1997 the PO MW career course saw the much-loved Course Exped removed. To put some fun back into the course and to provide a challenging project for the PO(MW) students, the first course of 1997 were tasked with organising a Section BBQ. The late PO(MW) Geoff Palmer, a student on the 1997 course, was given the task of coordinating the event and came up with the idea of opening it out to the wider Mine Warfare community. In conjunction with our current Vice Chairman, ex CPO(MW) Taff Reader who was the Mine Warfare School Training Coordinator at that time and in contact with many of the local ex serving MW’s, a list of potential attendees was drawn up and invites issued. The event was a great success and so the Mine Warfare Reunion was born. As a resident member of the training staff, Taff was in an ideal position to create and maintain a database of both serving and Ex MW’s to facilitate the reunion becoming an annual event. To give the event a baseline to work from some basic guidelines were created thus appointing the Warrant Officer of the Training School as a re-union Chairman.
Over the years Taff pulled together the annual re-unions/BBQs (initially in HMS DRYAD) where the late CPO(MW) Taff Davies was renowned for practicing his BBQ skills on the attendees. As time went on and later in various external venues around Portsmouth, the numbers attending grew and grew as they became the annual focus for all MWs to meet up. During this time the chairmanship of the reunions transferred to some infamous characters as the Training Warrant Officers post rotated. This included Pawl Shockley, Tommo Thomas, Pete Whitehead, Tony Mulrain, Nat Coles and Pete Mills all of who helped to build on the foundation created by that initial Section BBQ in HMS DRYAD. In 2004 the Mine Warfare School, along with the annual reunions which continued to grow, transferred to HMS Collingwood. In 2007 Taff’s Naval Career was drawing to a close and his future involvement/employment became uncertain so a decision on the future of the re-unions was needed to ensure the database did not fall into disrepair. During the following months and over numerous beers, the then chairman ex WO(MW) Pete Mills and Taff drew up plans and rules for the formation of the Minewarfare Association. In the summer of 2008 at the annual reunion, the 1st and inaugural Annual General Meeting took place where the constitution was agreed and the following inaugural committee was formed;Chairman – Pete MillsVice-Chairman & Treasurer – Taff ReaderWebmaster-Ronnie BarkerLocal Area Representatives
- Scotland – Pawl Stockley North England
- Polly Porter – Wales and – Midlands
- Gary Abnett – East England
- Jim Hawkins – South England
- Taff Reader – West England
- Simmo Simmonds – South West England
Whilst the majority of the above posts remain active within the association, to better serve the membership and to divide the workload, the additional posts of Treasurer, and Membership Secretary were later created.
And so began our band of brothers! A dit sessions worth of stories are not told here, so if your interested in more, come and join us and we will fill in the blanks!
“It is not the ship so much as the skilled sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.”