Coachlines - December 2023

20.12.23 The Clerk

Clerk’s Notes – December 2023

On 21st December 1940, nine Swordfish aircraft of 815 and 819 Naval Air Squadrons operating from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS attacked an Italian convoy off Kerkanah Island, Tunisia, and sank two of the vessels involved. On the same date in 1941 a Swordfish launched into the night from Gibraltar and sank U451, the first submarine to be sunk by an aircraft from a land base and operating alone.

As we prepare for Christmas, these two events are graphic reminders that sometimes, the days running up to Christmas are just dates on the calendar when other things happen, sometimes bad things – see also any news bulletin today.

However, it is the involvement of the Swordfish in the two actions mentioned to which I draw your attention. The Fairey Swordfish was a biplane torpedo bomber, introduced into service, primarily with the Fleet Air Arm, in the early 1930s. Even as it entered service it was already teetering on the edge of obsolescence, but more than 2,000 examples were built and it served throughout the Second World War until VE Day. Notwithstanding the minor actions mentioned above, it also achieved many significant successes, not least the crippling of the Italian Fleet at Taranto on the night of 11th-12th November 1940, and a major contribution to the sinking of the Bismark on 26th May 1941.

Today the Swordfish is the instantly recognized cover-girl of Navy Wings, the organisation that preserves and promotes Royal Navy aviation heritage based at RNAS Yeovilton, and with which we shall be working to deliver the Coachmakers’ Banquet 2024. Follow this link for more detail:

More details about Banquet 2024 can be found elsewhere in this edition but if you’ve not yet attended one and want to know what a Coachmakers’ Banquet looks like, follow this link:

The theme of Banquet 2024 will naturally give it a nautical feeling, but if you prefer your blue in a lighter shade than Navy, in 2018 the Coachmakers’ Banquet was themed as a celebration of 100 Years of the Royal Air Force. To see who was there and what happened, follow this link:

Banquet 2024 will be held on Friday 17th May 2024 at the Guildhall; tickets will go on sale in January.

Company news

Forthcoming events

The Award to Industry Dinner 2024 – 18th January 2024

The Award to Industry Dinner will take place on Thursday 18th January 2024 at Barber Surgeons’ Hall in London. Details of the winner can be found elsewhere in this edition. Places are still available, to book follow this link.

House of Commons Tour and Dinner – 25th January 2024

Take a tour of the House of Commons followed by a private dinner in one of the Members’ Private Dining Rooms. Details will be promulgated shortly.

Banquet 2024 – Friday 17th May 2024

Plans are now being made at pace – see separate article for more details. Tickets will go on sale in January. If you missed last year’s Banquet and want to know what a Coachmakers’ Banquet looks like follow this link:

Recent events

The photos from the Aerospace Industry Dinner at Vintners’ Hall on Thursday 16th November can now be accessed via this link:

City news

2024 World Traders / Goodenough College – International Women’s Day Celebration “Women’s In-Visibility” – Thursday 7th March 2024

An open call for creative and artwork

During the past three years, the Worshipful Company of World Traders has partnered with Goodenough College to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year, based loosely on the arts, their chosen theme is Women’s In-Visibility, focusing on the many unheard stories and uncelebrated women who have impacted our lives.

They invite women artists from across the Livery to contribute their work to be displayed alongside Goodenough College members on 7th March 2024. Drawing from the immense talent pool of Goodenough Members, the event is being curated by budding Art Curator, Kitty Brandon-James who is looking after the concept and helping to pull together their vision to make this a spectacular event.

What do they need from you?

If you have created any art pieces large or small, any media, poems, photography, articles, anything that enhances their theme – send photos by email in the first instance to Jill Shapiro at The work may be visual, tactile, or conceptual. It may be a sketch of an idea, or visually fully resolved but they must be alerted to the work by the 31st January latest.

They are looking for large works, and small; bold statements, and subtle problematics. The idea is to highlight what otherwise might be invisible, be this invisible labour, invisible power-structures, invisible road-blocks. On International Women’s Day, they want intergenerational conversation between women of the Livery and women from Goodenough College.

United Guilds’ Service – 15th March 2024

Plan ahead for the United Guilds’ Service to be held in St Paul’s Cathedral followed by lunch at Tallow Chandlers’ Hall; more details will follow in the New Year.

In conclusion

“T’is the season to be jolly..” or so the refrain doth go.

But is it?

The world appears to be heading to disaster climatically, politically and physically. There will be a dramatic spike in divorce rates in the immediate aftermath of Christmas (a fact) and homelessness is reported to be increasing day by day.

It actually appears to be more like a bleak mid-winter.

However, it is also the season of hope for a better future. And without wishing to infringe upon the major franchise of the season, instead I draw attention to all the enthusiastic and talented young people that the Coachmakers’ Company has recognised and supported during the past 12 months. The award winners and the many youngsters touched by the outreach programmes that the Coachmakers’ Charitable Trust also helps fund are physical examples of the future; and from what I’ve seen of those I have met, the future would appear to be a lot brighter than we might think.

Although I don’t have a copy to hand, in John Winton’s We Joined the Navy, a comedic look at life in the RN during the 1950s, there is a line that reads something like: “Don’t worry, the Navy’s always been going to the dogs, it’s when it gets there we need to worry.

Looking at the news, one might be forgiven for thinking that the world is already there but in this season of hope, let’s hope it isn’t, and with the same enthusiasm demonstrated by the Coachmakers’ award winners, let’s look forward to a better year in 2024.

The Assistant Clerk and I wish you all a happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.