825 Naval Air Squadron Wings Parade

825 Naval Air Squadron Wings Parade

The Commanding Officer of 825 Squadron, Commander Ben Dando, kindly invited representatives of the Worshipful Company of Distillers to attend the wings parade of Course 9. The Guest of Honour was Commodore Stuart Finn RN, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers. As the representatives of the Distillers, we felt honoured to be guests at what is possibly one of the most important days in the careers of those passing out.

Out of an exclusive set of only 6 that made the grade to start the course from the Royal Navy, only two successfully received their wings – one as an Observer and one as a pilot. Why only two? The course is hard, very hard and only the very highest standards are accepted. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that not all that start the course will complete it and receive their wings.

Honorary Steward Bob Russell with 825 NAS
Honorary Steward Bob Russell with 825 NAS

Sometimes the strain of month after month of intense training, even for those who have the natural capability, takes too much of a toll on the individual or their nearest and dearest and, in this instance, they will either need to reconsider their career direction, or look to take a break for a time.

The Royal Navy needs these pilots and observers to pass the course and take on their operational roles on the front line, 825 Squadron is responsible for ensuring that this happens and does everything it can to get the talented men and women through the course, but it will not settle for anything less than excellence. This Wings Parade was evidence to the fact that only the very best and committed will receive their wings.

The Distiller’s Prize is awarded to the junior rank, studying their engineers course, who has scored highest. The engineers are crucial to the operations of the flight crews as they are the ones who keep the helicopter in the air and working effectively and safely.

Bob Russell with LAET Matthew Spicer RN
Bob Russell with LAET Matthew Spicer RN

The Distiller’s Prize was awarded to LAET Matthew Spicer RN by Honorary Steward Bob Russell on behalf of the Master. LAET Spicer is a dedicated individual that is clearly calm under fire, when asked by Bob Russell, “How was the 5 hour grilling at the board?” (questions put to him over various scenarios) LAET Spicer replied “It’s only a grilling if you don’t know the answers!”

After the wings parade the Black Cats, the Royal Naval helicopter display team, treated us to a preview of next year’s routine.

The Wildcats demonstrated the level of precision and control that Naval Helicopter pilots need to have by formation flying at low level.

Matthew Russell

London Scottish Pipes & Drums Mini-band competition

We are incredibly proud of the reciprocal support we receive from all of our military affiliates. We were honoured with an invitation to London Scottish House to attend London Scottish Regiment’s Mini-band competition.

The Master handed out an award and received one in return! Reinforcing our strong association with the Pipes & Drums, we were struck, talking to everyone there, how much value is attached to the relationship with the Distillers.

THE Classic Boat Show 2023

The Worshipful Company of Distillers were hosted on board His Majesty’s Ships PUNCHER and DASHER during the Classic Boat Show in St Katharine Dock, London

As a gesture of thanks after the WCD provided support at the First Sea Lord’s Coronation Reception off Greenwich in HMS Diamond, the Second Sea Lord’s Cowes Week Reception in the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Royal Navy’s receptions at the Classic Boat Show, the Navy Regional Commander for London and Eastern England invited Liverymen to three events involved with this Boat Show.

The first was a river trip onboard HMS Puncher on the Thursday with a group of eight including the Master, Master Elect, and Liverymen Julia Thorold, Michael Infante and Karen Bennett – the latter of whom (in partnership with Diageo) provided Pimms refreshments for the subsequent official receptions on the Friday and Saturday evenings.

These receptions were hosted by HMS Dasher and her crew who were proudly on display in support  of the classic three day Classic Boat Show held in St Katherine’s Dock, London. The Show features the most beautifully maintained and restored classic boats – many of which are famous as  “Little Ships” that performed so heroically at the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. The Royal Navy presence and hospitality was an impressive way to show the nation’s thanks and appreciation for the amazing role these boats played in saving thousands of our serviceman’s lives.

The Worshipful Company of Distillers were delighted to be invited to meet the crew and partake in the kind hospitality of Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Henry Edwards, with Upper Warden Elect Nick Carr and Liveryman Jonathan Orr-Ewing representing the Master at each Reception. These events also involved a comprehensive and fascinating presentation on the wide variety of tasks that the P2000 Class ships like Puncher and Dasher carry out world wide on behalf of we – the taxpayers. All most impressive.

Nick Carr
Middle Warden

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Mistress & I were delighted to attend the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo as guests of Honorary Freeman, Air Vice Marshal Ross Paterson. Joining his party at the RAF Salute Taking Day during the Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.

The Distillers’ Company has a proud military affiliation with 603 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth.

We joined a Group of mainly senior RAF Officers including Air Marshal Harvey Smyth and Air Chief Marshal The Lord Stuart who took the parade salutes from the Royal Box. The view of the different parades was spectacular, with the massed drums and pipes of the various battalions, starting the show which had the theme of ‘Stories’.

A wide range of bands, Tattoo dancers and performers from the USA, Switzerland and Norway were included. Musical performances featuring the steel band representing the Defence Force of Trinidad and Tobago and dancers added a mass of colour and spectacle. The finale featured all 800 performers and, as tradition, a lone piper played the last piece from a precarious platform at the top of the castle.

Truly one of the greatest shows on earth and held on behalf of the RAF Benevolent Fund and other military charities representing the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Army.

We were privileged to be invited for such a memorable experience.

Chris Searle
Master 2022-23

Distillers Golf: RAF 603 Sqn vs Distillers Golf 2023

On Friday 16th June we met at Kinross Golf Club in beautiful sunshine. We agreed the formalities and set off to play Montgomery one of the two courses.

The course was in superb condition with beautiful mature tree lined holes framing the greens. The course was superbly laid out with a number of well-placed lateral water hazards and the greens were well guarded with sand. This made for a challenging round especially when coupled with the very dry conditions as the hard greens were very difficult to hold on to.

All the matches were tightly contested and as the scores came in it was neck and neck, thankfully for us Cammy was not able to pull off the same heroics as last year and I am pleased to report that the Distillers were eventually victorious and won back the shield.

L-R: Kenny Mackay, Andrew Macaree, Michael Urquhart. Matthew Gammell, Flt Lt Nick McGlynn, Air Specialist (Class 1) Garry Campbell, Flt Sgt Joyce Souter, Flt Lt Cammy Dalziel, Flt Sgt (ret’d) Jason Robson

Thank you to Nick and the team at 603 for hosting a very enjoyable day and for putting on such great weather. We look forward to next year and I am sure another tight contest.

Matthew Gammell

HMS DIAMOND Coronation Reception – 3rd May 2023

On Wednesday 3rd May we continued our recent period of Royal Navy engagement by attending the First Sea Lord’s Coronation Reception in HMS DIAMOND, moored at Greenwich in London.  As the Guardship for the Coronation, she is the Navy’s focal point for the weekend.

A group of very excited gentlemen, led by The Master, mustered on the jetty in Greenwich in the glorious sunshine to be ferried onboard one of His Majesty’s finest Warships. Supporting the Master were Past Masters Howell, Grant, Raines, Cheeseman and Riley, The Upper Warden Lorne MacKillop, Honorary Steward Wilson and Liverymen Orr-Ewing, Hunter and Collins.

Many of those attending from the Livery had contributed personally to the victuals on offer that evening and it was evident, immediately, that this would make the evening very special for all concerned.

Despite the wind whistling down the Thames the reception quickly filled up with over 200 people in attendance, from all walks of life, and we were ably entertained by cadets from the Naval Band from the Royal Hospital School in Suffolk.

We were warmly welcomed by the Commanding Officer, Commander Peter Barfoot, whom Liveryman Simon Collins had previously served with which gave it a personal element too.

Following the CO’s excellent speech, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key, spoke of his involvement in the Coronation rehearsals that day and his gratitude to the Distillers for their generosity toward the evening.  After ceremonial sunset we were ferried back to shore and went on our separate ways.

Another excellent evening in the company of the Royal Navy where the Senior Service demonstrated one of the many reasons it is as such!

Simon Collins
Chairman, MALT

HMS MONTROSE Decommissioning Ceremony – 17th April 2023

On Monday the 17th April we were honoured to be VIP guests at HMS MONTROSE’s decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth, to mark the end of her time as an operational warship as she leaves The Fleet. 

Thankfully, with better weather than the affiliates’ day the previous week, a team consisting of PM David Raines, PM Allan Cheeseman, Steward Matt Gammell, Honorary Steward Steve Wilson, Liverymen Simon Collins, Jonathan Orr-Ewing, Tasmin Little, Adam Wallis, Chris Nadin, Helen Chesshire, Killian O’Sullivan, Murray Craig and Russell Mellor, ably led again by IPM Chris Porter.

Having battled our way through base security we were immediately impressed as we walked past the Ship’s Company forming up on parade and the wonderful Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines warming up (musically!) on the jetty.

Before taking our seats, we were met by previous Commanding Officers of MONTROSE, of note Captain Connor O’Neil and Rear Admiral (our very own Steward of course) James Parkin.  We also had the opportunity to mingle with some very senior Naval Officers as well as Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, also a previous Commanding Officer, and Sir Malcom Rifkind, whose late wife was the Lady sponsor when MONTROSE was launched.

Having taken our seats, we were treated to witnessing the Ship’s Company march on to the jetty alongside the Ship, to the sound of the wonderful Royal Marines Band, and form up directly in front of us – we could not have had better seats!

The formal ceremony then progressed with the keynote speech being from Vice Admiral Martin Connell, Second Sea Lord, who rightly reflected on MONTROSE’s achievements over her career but specifically during her period of four years forward deployed. A poignant moment of the ceremony was the final lowering of MONTROSE’s white ensign, the sign that she has finally decommissioned and is no longer part of the Fleet.  Having been lowered on board (you can see it flying at the stern in the photo above) it was folded and then carried the length of the ship, onto the jetty and to the dais where it was presented to the final Commanding Officer, Commander Claire Thompson OBE Royal Navy.  In a very touching move, it was then presented to Sir Malcom Rifkind which he was not expecting and was visibly moved by this gesture.

The final part of the ceremony saw the band and ship’s company march off before enjoying a well-earned buffet lunch followed by an evening party, which was well deserved after all of their hard work.

Before leaving we took the opportunity to present the Commanding Officer with a bottle of MONTROSE Gin which Steward Matt Gammell presented along with IPM Chris Porter.

We have many happy memories of our affiliation with HMS MONTROSE and have been privileged to be part of her final act as a commissioned warship in the Royal Navy.  Our next warship affiliation will be the brand new (yet to be built) Type 31 frigate, HMS CAMBELTOWN, and we will have the honour of supporting her as she has her steel cut, is built, then undergoes sea trials in the coming years.  There will be plenty of opportunities for the Livery to interact so look out for future announcements.

MALT Visit to RAF Lossiemouth

We had a most enjoyable day at RAF Lossiemouth for their employer visit. Squadron Leader Chris Beckley OBE BSc greeted us with coffee and briefed us on the day’s itinerary and the necessary “rules.” We were then bussed to the Atlantic hanger, a vast and pristine building large enough to accommodate three Boeing 737s.

Group Captain Jim Lee, the station commander, provided us with a fantastic introduction to the station and its aircraft’s capabilities, of course a lot of the capabilities were classified information, but we got a good all-round picture. The hanger housed the P-8A Poseidon aircraft, used for maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-ship warfare. These beautiful-looking aircraft have a wide range of capabilities, I think its safe to say it would be fairly impossible to hide from these aircraft.

After lunch, we met RAF Reserves from all over Scotland, hosted by 2622 squadron. It was fascinating to hear about their training in the RAF and how it helps them in their civilian careers. I had the pleasure of meeting a Dreamliner airline pilot, a lawyer, a bartender, and a university history lecturer, among others.

We then made our way to the Typhoon hanger, and coincidentally, two Typhoons flew over our heads at low altitude, creating a deafening and impressive experience. Flight Lieutenant James Bell, standing outside the hanger wearing his shades, greeted us. It was as close to being on the set of Top Gun as I’ll ever get. He shared an interesting fact about his colleague, who weighs 100kg and increases in weight to just under one tonne when the aircraft pulls a nine-point-something G. We also had a Q&A with Wing Commander Kev Terret, who revealed that Russian visits to UK sovereign territory’s outskirts were more frequent than one would think. When asked about the proximity of these visits, he humorously remarked, “I would be able to tell whether the pilot was drinking a can of Coke or Fanta!”

It was a fantastic day, and I’m pleased to report – we are in very safe hands!

With Special thanks to SQ leader Derek Reed 603 squadron for the kind invitation.

Marcus Pickering

HMS MONTROSE Affiliates’ Day – 13th April 2023

On Thursday the 13th April we were privileged to be invited to HMS MONTROSE’s affiliates day in Portsmouth. Braving the horrendous weather, a team consisting of PM David Raines, Liverymen Simon Collins, Steve Wilson, Jonathan Orr-Ewing, Adam Wallis, Karen Bennett, Michael Infante and David Walker, ably led by IPM Chris Porter, embarked onboard our affiliated Royal Navy warship for what was to be a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Along with other affiliates including the Black Watch, the Mayor of Fowey and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, whose late wife was the Ship’s sponsor when it was launched in 1992, we were welcomed onboard by the Commanding Officer, Commander Claire Thompson OBE Royal Navy, before beginning our tour.

A series of informative and exciting briefs ensued including the opportunity to operate some of her smaller weapons, visit the sickbay, handling some of their firefighting equipment, witnessing the recovery of a “man overboard” and finally a well-earned cuppa with the CO in her sea cabin. Lunch was served in the hangar and was expertly prepared by Royal Marine chefs who certainly did The Corps proud. This also gave us the opportunity to mingle with the Ship’s Company and other affiliates, all of whom had fascinating stories from their four years deployed in the Middle East.

Managing to beat the hailstorms, the afternoon saw a firefighting and damage control demonstration on the flight deck where plenty of water was used, most of it ending up back on the clothes of those doing the demonstration, followed by a warfighting scenario in the Operations Room where, quite rightly, MONTROSE won the battle!

A wonderful day was rounded off with IPM Chris Porter presenting the final Sailor of the Year award to Leading Engineering Technician Ball who received a bottle of the Master’s cask, a quaich and some engraved glasses.

HMS MONTROSE decommissions on Monday 17th April which will see her formally retire from Royal Navy service. A number of our Livery have the honour to attend the decommissioning ceremony, so more to follow next week!

Mare ditat rosa decorat

Simon Collins
Chairman, MALT