The Secret of Our Success
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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 Mills
- Vice-Chairman & Treasurer - Taff Reader
- Webmaster-Ronnie Barker
Local Area Representatives
- Scotland – Pawl Stockley
- North Eng. - Polly Porter
- Wales and - Mid – Gary Abnett
- East Eng. – Jim Hawkins
- South Eng. – Taff Reader
- West Eng. Simmo Simmonds
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.
The association continues to grow and adapt today. In recent years the annual reunion has taken to the road holding events in all regional areas from Stirling in Scotland to Weymouth in the South of England, not to mention some excellent events in Blackpool, Cardiff, Liverpool and Bristol as it tried to reach out to a growing membership now in excess of a 130 members. This includes a good mix of both serving and ex serving Officers and ratings of the Mine Warfare fraternity. While these regional reunions took the association around the UK, attendance was often limited to the dedicated few willing to travel. It fell short in achieving one of the main objectives of the MWA to promote links and maintain comradeship between members. At the 2016 AGM a decision was taken and agreed by the membership, to hold future reunions in the Portsmouth area where a large proportion of the membership was based and where many others returned on a regular basis. The annual MWA reunion continues to grow from strength to strength and numbers attending continue to increase.
In 2017 at the AGM, members proposed that having a Minewarfare Association Standard would put the MWA on the same level as other associations and open new opportunities to attend remembrance parades and such like, thus raising the profile of the MWA. This was agreed and thanks to the efforts of MWA member, Lt Cdr Bob Hawkins RN and the generosity of the Inverkeithing Masonic Lodge the MWA Standard was designed purchased under the guidance of MWA member ex CPO(MW) Sam Cook who liaised with the manufacturer. At the 2018 AGM the standard was paraded by Sam for its commissioning and associated blessing by the MWA Bish, Mrs Debbie Harvey. The MWA Standard received its first formal public parading at the 2018 Veterans parade in Weymouth and was successfully paraded by ex CPO(MW) Topsy Toner.
2018 also saw the association celebrate its 10thanniversary. In true Mine Warfare style, the celebration was a lavish formal dinner held onboard HMS WARRIOR 1860 in Portsmouth. The event brought together over 100 members and partners who enjoyed a splendid evening of good food, excellent wine with Captain Roger Redwin Royal Navy, Captain Mine Warfare, Fishery Protection and Patrol Vessels (CMFP) as the VIP and guest speaker. The infamous Shep Woolley and the Cabin Buoys provided the music and entertainment. The MWA Standard was also paraded, again by Sam Cook, prior to the dinner which was its first formal parading. It proved to be an excellent evening with some old acquaintances renewed and some good dit’s told but for most it was a truly memorable evening for the good company.
As we now enter our 11thyear under the helm of Chairman ex WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, with the continued support of Vice Chairman Taff Reader and the association Treasurer, ex Lieutenant George Turnbull Royal Navy, the association continues to adapt to the ever-increasing membership.
While the number of ex serving members continues to grow, we continue to reach out further to increase the number of serving members through our Membership Secretary CPO(MW) Sean Slee who is also currently serving in the Naval Service.
The website which holds an excellent plethora of information and photos of Mine Warfare past and present, is edited, managed and maintained by our webmaster ex PO(MW) Ronnie Barker.
To add to this the Association Facebook Page managed by Shaun Keen continues to provide instant communication between the memberships.
The MWA remains as strong as ever to achieve its objectives of:
- To organise a reunion for members once a year.
- To support regional events where possible.
- To promote links and maintain comradeship between members and to keep the ‘Mine Warfare Spirit’ alive.
- To develop identity based MW Association merchandise