The 2017 MWA Reunion took place at the Royal Maritime Club (RMC) in Portsmouth and was attended by 44 MWA members and their guests. This year the reunion took on a different format to that of previous years by way of a disco and cold buffet rather than a 4 course dinner etc. It was very well received and allowed for a lot more conversation to take place as well as a lot more consumption of beer.
The weekend got off to an excellent start on the Friday night with a lot of the attendees from out of town arriving in Portsmouth and meeting up in the Royal Maritime Club in the evening. Many friendships were renewed and new acquaintances made. Everyone took advantage of the 10% discount available to members through the MWA RMC Membership. It was particularly good to see a lot of the elder brethren of the mine Warfare Fraternity, Topsy Toner, Sam Cook, Barney Barnett, Jan Harvey and George Turnbull (although George denies that he is one of the ‘elder’ brethren) but to name a few. There were also the newer MWA Members, Mark Gover, Phil Smith and their wives, who were welcomed to the association and initiated into the reunion process with a pretty heavy evening session. It was also good to see Nat Coles and his wife on Friday night renewing acquaintances with Paul (Polly) Porter and his wife. Everyone slowly dispersed throughout the evening with the last of the stragglers gong to their respective rooms about 1am.
The AGM took place in the RMC at 1000 on Saturday morning attended by a number of members. The proceedings were opened with a reading by the MWA Bish, Debbie Harvey, a minutes silence to remember those who had crossed the bar and a prayer. Thank you Debbie, very much appreciated. A lot was discussed and agreed at the meeting details of which can be found in the minutes posted on the website. The position of Chairman and Membership Secretary were up for re-election this year and I and Taff Slee were unanimously voted in to the respective positions. Pete Whitehead stood down as Treasurer after many years’ service and George Turnbull was proposed and unanimously voted in as Treasurer. Welcome to George and thanks for volunteering. Of particular note was the agreement to have a President of the association and certain senior personnel are to be approached to be invited to take up the role. No names, no pack drill until agreement is reached. The second significant item to be agreed was the purchase of a Minewarfare Association Standard which will be investigated by both Sam Cook and Bob Hawkins and Bob has undertaken to investigate whether the Standard might be sponsored. More on that when it happens. Both these items move the MWA forward and as Chairman I was delighted that they were proposed and agreed. Lastly it was unanimously agreed to hold the 2018 MWA 10th Anniversary Reunion dinner on-board HMS WARRIOR. This is going to be a very prestigious event which will be heavily subsidised for MWA Members. The date of Saturday 24 March 2018 has been booked and secured so save the date on your calendars. More details will be available in the Events section of the website. Bob Hawkins, as the 1st Lt, gave a very interesting brief on events occurring on HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH putting to bed some of the myths and rumours reported in the press. Whilst not strictly Mine Warfare (but every ship is a Minesweeper once!!) it made a refreshing change to hear how things are progressing and to hear about the RNs most modern and largest warship. After the meeting, member retired to the bar or went to Gunwharf Quays to rescue their credit card from their wives!!
So onto the main event, Saturday nights reunion. Everyone mustered in the main bar of the RMC from about 1830 to have a livener and generally meet up with those who couldn’t attend on Fridays meet and greet. We retired to the Nelson Lounge at 1930ish where the reunion was to be held and so to be away from the maddening crowd gathering in the main bar. There were some very familiar faces and some that we hadn’t seen for many years. The list of those who attended is at the end of this dit. However, it was brilliant to see everyone but special mention to Jan Pearcey (ex CPO(MW)) who had travelled over from Australia to see family but took time out from his busy itinerary to attend the function. Dick Barton (Ex CPO(MW)) from Weymouth was also there which increased the number of the ‘elder brethren’. It was noticeable that the group at the bar consisting of Barney, Sam Jan, Dick Barton, Jan Pearcey, George T represented a significant number of years’ service to the RN and, in their later years in service, a significant number of years’ service to the Minewarfare Branch. The days of the TON class were more in evidence than ever before and of course, the conversation wasn’t always ‘shop’ talk. The subjects of triple bypass operations, fitted stents, sweepdeck knee and ‘where are they now’ came up. Attendance was good, the West Country contingent as strong as ever, Ray Standley, Bennie Carroll, Dusty Miller, Jan Harvey, Sam Cook, Dorian Simmonds, Pony (DJ) Moores, Dick Barton, the northern contingent represented by Jim McLeod, Mel Terrel, Mike Scott, Mark Gover, Chis Bamber, Phil Smith and the southerners included myself, Taff Reader, Pete Whitehead, George T, Barney, Bob Hawkins Nat Coles, Taff Bow, Sean Keen, Pete Cooling, and Max Coffey. It was particularly nice to see all the wives and girlfriends who accompanied their partners to the event and joined in the evening with old and new friendships surfacing.
No reunion would be complete without a raffle run by Pete Whitehead assisted by Dorian Simmonds. They both sold (cajoled) tickets to everyone and run the raffle with the usual finesse taking the rise out of each and every winner and sometimes those who didn’t. The winners of the rum donated their ill-gotten gains to auction and the contents were then shared with all the other guests. In total the raffle and auction raised a formidable £420 for Project Vernon. As I said previously, Pete Whitehead stood down as Treasurer after many years to be able to dedicate more time to visiting his grandchildren. To mark the occasion it was my pleasure to present him on behalf of the MWA Members, with a framed picture of the pencil drawing of Vernon Creek (in the days of the TON Class) to thank him for all his work and dedication as Treasurer.
The evening went on until 2359 and some thereafter with those who stayed in local hotels dispersing on Sunday having indulged in a full English breakfast!!
I thought it was an excellent evening with excellent company and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great to see all of the members and their guests and I look forward to next year to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the MWA on HMS WARRIOR on Saturday 24 March 2018. Save the date in your diaries.