South West Region – Naval Indulgence

On Friday 9th June the South West Region Committee, chaired by Liveryman Chris Nadin, embarked on its second event since its inauguration which was a weekend of Naval indulgence. With our already close links with the Senior Service, it was fitting to spend our weekend in Portsmouth at three events.

Meeting at HMNB Portsmouth in the glorious sunshine we were escorted in convoy to HMS DIAMOND, which a number of us has recently visited when she was the Coronation Guardship in London so we already felt at home. Ably led by the Master and Mistress, Upper Warden Lorne Mackillop and his wife Seana, Liveryman Chris Nadin and his wife Jenny, Liveryman Simon Collins and his wife Lisa, and Steward Jonathan Orr-Ewing mustered on the jetty to begin our tour. Met on the flight deck by the Commanding Officer (CO), Commander Peter Barfoot Royal Navy, we were given a slick safety brief by the Officer of the Day before being shown to the Wardroom for a welcome talk by the Gunnery Officer (“Gunz”) and the CO; the addition some light refreshment helped of course!

A tour of the whole ship followed which saw us visit the Ship’s Control Centre where all machinery, equipment and services are controlled from and where any incidents (fire, flood) on the ship are dealt with, one of the damage control posts where we saw some of the emergency firefighting equipment that could be used, the operations room where the ship is fought from, the flight deck and finally the bridge. The brief we were given by Gunz was excellent and we all learnt a lot. Our visit culminated in a well-earned G&T in the CO’s cabin where he was able to share with us some of DIAMOND’s history and very kindly gave us all a small gift, as well as presenting a ship’s crest to the Master. After a 3 hours visit and having scaled many ladders we headed to our hotel to prepare for the evening’s festivities.

The same group gathered in the early evening at Victory Gate in Portsmouth and were joined by Past Master David Raines and Past Mistress Jenny Raines, Court Assistant Alex Parker and his guest, Captain Katherine Armstrong Royal Navy, Liveryman Peter Doran and Giles and Jenny Collighan from the Portsmouth Distillery who were our guests for the evening. Also joining us was Captain Conor O’Neill Royal Navy, and his wife Harriet, who was hosting our evening on behalf of The Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Martin Connell, whose residence we would be dining at.

Having cleared security, we arrived at the fabulous Admiralty House where we enjoyed champagne in the garden and a welcome speech from Captain O’Neill who gave us a history of the house and a short overview of the Royal Navy today. Soon we were called in for dinner and took our places in the very impressive dining room, where we were treated to an excellent 3-course dinner, wine, port and chocolates and much discussion and banter. An excellent touch what that the silverware on show was related to ships/squadrons that some of us had served in, making it a very special occasion. Liveryman Chris Nadin gave a thank you speech to the SW Region committee for their organisation and also made a toast to the late Sir Ivan Menezes who sadly passed away the previous week; a number of the party knew him professionally and personally. After the loyal toast the Master said a few words, thanking the staff for their excellent service and presenting Captain O’Neill with a bottle of his Master’s Cask. Leaving just after 2300 we made our way back to the hotel for a well-earned rest before the next day’s excitement.

After a leisurely start to the day, we met at the Portsmouth Distillery which is only just over 5 years old and is located in Fort Cumberland in Southsea. What this has to do with the Royal Navy you may ask, but the two owners are both Ex-Royal Navy Officers so our link with the Senior Service continues! Having had a brief on the history of the fort, the distillery and how it came about we were given a tour of the distilling room (in one of the original casemates) and the bottling room; as you can imagine with we had a lot of well-founded questions which were equally well answered by Giles. An opportunity for some gin and rum tasting followed and we all certainly enjoyed this element! While half the group had lunch, the other half were whisked to the other side of the fort in a golf buggy to see where they are ageing their rum, in what can only be described as very apt surroundings. We were all impressed with the visit, and it was commented a number of times that is no ordinary distillery, and definitely one to watch in the coming years. Bringing our time together to a close the Master said some words of thanks and we all departed on our merry way.

Throughout the weekend the weather was very kind to us and certainly added to our enjoyment. A combination of great company, good hosting and ample victuals made for a thoroughly enjoyable two days.

Another series of excellent events in the company of the Royal Navy where the Senior Service demonstrated, yet again, the reason it holds such high status, both in the UK and abroad!

Simon Collins
MALT Chairman