28.07.22 The Clerk

The Coachmakers spend an evening with the Royal Navy at HMS PRESIDENT

HMS PRESIDENT occupies one of the most coveted positions in the heart of London; just downstream of Tower Bridge it overlooks the entrance to St Katharine Docks and a vibrant stretch of the River Thames. With Tower Bridge framed against a London sunset and led by the Master, on 25th April 2022 30+ Coachmakers were granted sole use of the Wardroom by kind permission of Lieutenant Commander Edward Bingham VR RNR, the Executive Officer of the establishment.

Home to the London Branch of the Royal Navy Reserve, HMS PRESIDENT also serves as the Headquarters of Commodore Rob Bellfield CBE ADC Royal Navy, Commander Naval Regional Command, Eastern England. Cdre Rob had very kindly agreed to provide the Coachmakers attending with a short update on contemporary Royal Navy activity and give everyone present an insight into global events against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and increased activity in the Far East.

The evening had started with a glass or two of fizz and therefore having agreed to speak for 10 minutes, once he’d warmed to his theme, and encouraged by some incisive questions from his audience, he was happy to continue for 30 minutes. Indeed it was a privilege to be granted such an honest and up-to-date view of the world from such a senior naval perspective and those present were much impressed.

Bringing the evening crashing back to earth, the Clerk then took to the stage to provide a short summary of events that had taken place on 25th and 26th April 40 years previously, in and around the islands of South Georgia. In summary, he explained the real events behind the familiar picture at the head of this piece which is generally known as the signing of the surrender of South Georgia by Lt Cdr Alfredo Astiz of the Argentine Navy, the bloke on the left with the beard.

The Clerk was able to give an accurate account of what actually happened because at the time the photo was taken he was standing beside the photographer taking his own photo of the scene. However, if you want to know what the Clerk said you’ll have to wait now for his memoirs to be printed in time for the 50th anniversary of the Falkland’s Conflict.

After the evening’s briefings had concluded, everyone retired to the Wardroom dining room for a hot buffet supper and a glass or two of wine, once again enjoying the view over the River Thames and the night sky of the City lit up by so many landmark buildings.

However, going back to the Clerk’s reflections on events of 40 years ago, he shared the photo below taken on the morning of 26th April 1982 from the upper deck of HMS PLYMOUTH against the backdrop of the South Georgia landscape and the old whaling station of Port Leith. Entitled “Sunshine on Port Leith” it was taken six years before the Proclaimers released a song with a similar title.

Sunshine on Port Leith – 26th April 1982