Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Finally St Albans


It wasn't a good start to the journey to Portsmouth. A small group of us got on a train at Waterloo only to discover that British Rail had later changed the platform number. Fortunately we noticed in time and so only  arrived 30 minutes late rather than ending up at the wrong destination. While others had been on board HMS St Albans before, and even sailed with her, this was my first visit. Interestingly her name dates back to 1687 when she was a 50 gun Ship of the Line.

We were greeted by the captain, Commander Sharpe, in his quarters and then shown around the ship. We had, of course, met earlier in the month when we sponsored his receipt of the Freedom of the City of London. While the tour was a complex journey with extremely steep staircases it was well worth it to discover the role that our Navy plays and the difficult conditions in which they have to perform. The question is of course why a navy? Two answers which resonate with me are that almost everything in the home reached our shores by sea, and the UK needs an oil tanker to off load every eight minutes to keep us in fuel. We need open sea lanes.

And so to the purpose of the visit, the prize giving. Our contribution was the Marketors Cup which went to the person who contributed most to the positioning and promotion of the ship and its crew. This was presented by Past Master Jim Surguy who donated the cup last year. Another prize was awarded by Lady Susie Essenhigh who is the ship's sponsor and who brought her husband Admiral Sir Nigel Richard Essenhigh, GCB, ADC, who served as First Sea Lord and is now chief executive of Northrop Grumman's  Information Systems Europe business, an organisation I was involved with in the past. Conversation over lunch in the ward room ranged from the defence budget to music and as always was both interesting and entertaining. 

Having had a brief look at Portsmouth Harbour I really must return soon to view the various ships moored there plus, of course, Henry the VIII's Mary Rose.

John Flynn
Master Marketor

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