Mark The Clerk

01.02.21 The Clerk

Clerk’s Notes – February 2021

On 1st February 1963, Admiralty Fleet Order 152/62 was issued in which it said: “Their Lordships consider the time appropriate for the Royal Navy to discontinue the use of the traditional but now unsuitable term “Asdic” (Allied Submarine Detection Investigation Committee) and to adopt the term “Sonar” (Sound Navigation and Ranging). Sonar is the official NATO term and is used by most other countries.”

It went on to say that: “In the interests of economy, existing publications and drawings are not to be amended and existing tally plates on equipment and compartments are not to be changed”. Consequently, many of the ships fighting in the Falklands in 1982, my own included, were still using equipment marked as “Asdic”; although thankfully significantly better than the devices first trialled at Harwich on 5th June 1917.

A graphic illustration of how Asdic was used can be seen in the 1953 film The Cruel Sea starring Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden, among many others. Based on a realistic novel by Nicholas Monsarrat it highlights the cat and mouse nature of anti-submarine warfare, or ASW. Most powerful is the fact that one action of ship vs submarine could take hours or even days before, as depicted in the film, the call of “Instantaneous Echo Sir” could be made followed by a depth charge attack on the enemy submarine. Not much has changed today and ASW is not known as Awfully Slow Warfare for nothing.

Sea Cadet Update

Supported by The Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP, the Sea Cadets recently announced the launch of ‘My LegaSea – launching into life’, a ground-breaking multi-generational research study spanning eight decades. Commissioned by independent researchers, it examines the impact on young people’s lives after having been a part of Sea Cadets. You can read this report by following this link and visit the ‘My LegaSea’ web page for more information.

Bridging the gap

My good friend the Clerk to the Makers of Playing Cards has made the following offer to all Liverymen and Freemen of the City:

Dear brother and sister Clerks,

The Makers of Playing Cards are pleased to announce details of our fourth online Inter-Livery Bridge Competition (ILB) to be held on Monday 1st March 2021 at 2.15pm (with an expected finish time of 5.30pm), which we would be delighted if you would share with your members.

Detailed joining instructions can be found on our website:

It is open to any member of any Livery Company and, to make the event more inclusive during the pandemic, we are relaxing the normal ILB rule that your Partner must also be a Livery Company member. Accordingly, you are most welcome to join us and play with any partner of your choosing. The only restriction is that no more than one of each pair may have an NGS* King or Ace designation. To enter, please click here.

The cost of the event is BB$10 per person (approximately £7.30), which can be paid online by following the joining instructions and any surplus will be for the benefit of the Makers of Playing Cards’ Charity, to provide educational and other support to disadvantaged children and others under 25 years of age.

Please note that the annual ILB with dinner at Drapers’ Hall has been rescheduled from Monday 1st March to Monday 6th September 2021.

Guild of Young Freemen Inter-Livery Quiz

Due to the pandemic restrictions, the young livery members’ Inter-Livery Quiz 2021 will be hosted online, taking place on Thursday 11th February, 7pm-8.30pm. The quiz will again be hosted by Quiz Coconut, and now more than ever they hope you will join them to raise money for a good cause, as well as to raise our collective spirits together.

The Guild invites Clerks and their Company members to submit bookings (either individually or as a team) via this link, and tickets will be priced at £10 per person. The first prize is a donation to the winning team’s Company charity. Quiz Coconut’s virtual quizzes are just as enjoyable and interesting as their in-person events, the Guild of Young Freemen hopes that your Company will enter a team. More information can be obtained from the Clerk Jason Frost at

Your Coachlines needs you

At its meeting on 28th January 2021, the Court kindly agreed to establish the Benjamin Rhodes Armitage Memorial Award for the best article featured in Coachlines during the previous calendar year. The first award will be made at the Carol Service Supper on 16th December 2021 and the competition is open to all Coachmakers and the subject matter will be for the writer to select. It can be a stand-alone article or video submitted at any time during the year or it can be a series of articles featured in successive editions, the choice is yours. So, sharpen those quills, shake out the parchment and get writing.

The award itself will have an appropriately Clerkish theme with a heavy tilt towards all things nautical presented to the Company by your current Clerk. In addition, the winner plus one guest will be invited to attend the Carol Service and Supper as guests of the Company and the award will be presented during the Supper.

The idea for this new award has a direct link to a former Clerk to the Coachmakers. You will recall that in the early December 2020 edition of Coachlines I told you about Temporary Lieutenant Benjamin Rhodes Armitage of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who was onboard the PRINCE of WALES serving as the Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Phillips. I also told you that on 10th December 1941, PoW was sunk along with HMS REPULSE leading to the loss of 840 sailors including Benjamin.

At that time Benjamin was still the nominal Clerk to the Coachmakers Company having taken up the position in 1934; he was 34 years of age when he died and he rests in the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore. This year will mark the 80th anniversary of his loss and to mark the occasion it was felt that a fitting tribute to a Clerk lost under such circumstances would be an annual award made to the person who wrote the most interesting and engaging article for Coachlines during the calendar year as judged by the Master, Immediate Past Master, Communications Committee Chairman and the Clerk.

A more detailed account of the events of 10th December 1941 and Benjamin’s personal story will appear in a later edition of Coachlines. The story of Liveryman Sharon Pink’s late father-in-law will also be told. For now you will be interested to know that in 1941 Maurice Pink was a 19 year-old Royal Marine Bandsman serving in HMS REPULSE. On the morning of the 10th December 1941 he was at his Action Station four decks down as part of the team working the fire control analogue computer serving the guns of HMS REPULSE when all hell broke loose and his ship began to sink. Maurice’s tale of how he was helped onto the upper deck as the ship went down and what happened next is the stuff of nightmares but he survived and his tale will be included in a future edition.

In summary

I mentioned earlier that the main characteristic of Awfully Slow Warfare is that it takes time for things to happen, but when they do it can really focus the mind, and not necessarily how you might think. Having spent a significant number of hours with a Westland product strapped to my rear end I can tell you that bits of the ASW environment can be sufficiently exciting without the need for an enemy submarine to enter into the equation.

During the latter years of the Cold War, I was a Royal Navy ASW Sea King pilot, or “Pinger” as we were “affectionately” known. As such I spent a lot of the time “in the dip” engaged in Active ASW by means of lowering a Sonar body into the water in an attempt to locate submarines with sound as in The Cruel Sea. However, much more of my time was spent at several thousand feet turning petrol into noise in the Passive ASW role monitoring sonabuoys with hydrophones attached to them listening for submarines.

Of course all the clever stuff happened in the back of the cab where the Observer, or “Looker”, and the aircrewman operated the Sonar and Radar equipment to “fight” the aircraft. The two “stick monkeys” in the front just had to stay awake and keep the whole show aloft heading in vaguely the required direction. In essence therefore my job was to keep a good lookout and keep everything from getting wet. However it had its moments, and sitting in a 40 foot hover at night with 200 feet of electric string dangling in the water with a quarter of a ton of sonar body attached to it while the wind and rain doth blow did concentrate the mind, particularly when one’s sole preoccupation was the fear of an engine failure or a gearbox malfunction. Of course we regularly rehearsed and practiced all the various drills for such failures but despite the well-practised phraseology that had been honed from years of experience to warn our crew of the impending inconvenience, almost every serious malfunction was met with an immediate: “S*%t, what was that……?”

Of course at several thousand feet in the Passive role, life was much less fraught. However, as the Senior Observer in the Ground School at RNAS Culdrose said in 1985, “For a pilot, a Passive ASW sortie is three hours of boredom followed by 30 seconds of terror as he tries to land back on the deck”; and I can tell you from personal experience many times over that he was absolutely bang on with that.

Stay safe and well and I hope that your vaccination day has come and gone or is imminent.

After the Clouds, the Sun.