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Thursday 14th November 2019

HQS Wellington Luncheon

By Angela Chambers (Pewterers)

After grey skies and rain in the morning, the Firebirds’ Biennial Lunch kicked off with a reception on the Quarterdeck of HQS Wellington just as the sun came out. Seventy Firebirds and consorts mingled enthusiastically and with the Thames skyline as a backdrop it seemed like a jolly good start to the proceedings. We were very pleased to be joined by our President, Juliet Mountevans, and, despite the best efforts of Network Rail to thwart her, our Vice President, Samantha Bowman.

HQS Wellington is unique as it is the floating Livery Hall of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. HQS Wellington is also a floating museum and library, as well as being a conference and dining venue. She entered service in January 1935 as an Imperial Patrol Sloop destined for the New Zealand Station. She had a total crew of 107 and was armed with two 4.7 inch guns, one forward and one aft, and one 3 inch high-angle gun used for anti-aircraft defence.

During the Second World War Wellington was fitted with depth charge throwers for anti-submarine warfare and provided escort to 103 convoys on the eastern side of the Atlantic, rescuing many survivors from sunken ships.

In January 1947 the Admiralty sold Wellington to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. She was towed to Chatham Dockyard where she was converted for civilian use, This took two years to complete. During this time a striking teak staircase leading down to the Courtroom was installed, this came from the Isle of Man ferry, SS Viper, which was being broken up on the Clyde at the time. An excellent two course lunch with both red and white wine was served in the Courtroom, originally the boiler and engine rooms. After the usual Toasts our Chair, Vicky Nugee, welcomed everyone and touched upon the recent successes of the Association. She also paid tribute to El Moss for organising the lunch and this was greeted with deserved applause.

It was then the turn of Liz Ward to introduce the guest speaker, Vivian Widgery. Vivian worked for Hansard of the House of Commons for 32 years and gave an illuminating and amusing talk, entitled ‘A Life in Words’. She started working for Hansard in October 1979 as one of the first trainee reporters and ended up as Deputy Editor. The role of Hansard is to interpret the spoken word into the written word and it is mostly a verbatim report of what is said in Parliament. It became a department of the House of Commons at the beginning of the 19 century, and today it is streamlined and efficient with everything that is said in the House of Commons posted on the internet within three hours. Vivian regaled us with a string of stories about her time working there and said the only topic she was unwilling to discuss was Brexit!

This was a memorable and convivial occasion with the turnout demonstrating that the Association is thriving.


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