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20 NAVY NEWS, MAY 2002 vynews .co .uk




'And lay out my best working rig, Chief - I've got the Forenoon as Bridge Messenger!'

Star turn who kept smiling through

turn. 'W

whose stellar, final public engagement last November was her three-hour visit to HMS Ark Royal - the flagship of the Fleet she launched in 1981. 'Ah, dear Portsmouth!" she was heard to exclaim as she flew

To no one to they apply more than to the Queen Mother,

in by helicopter to the home of the Royal Navy where she called so many times in the course of her 80 years of public duty. Her arch aside to the ship's Commanding Officer, inviting him

to 'Splice the mainbrace', delivered with her trademark mischie- vous smile, was a supreme example of her sense of fun and unquenchable joie de vivre - which also summed up the 'can do' spirit she shared with the Senior Service. "I am only a Naval officer," her husband famously declared

went on to decorate with fine distinction - thanks in large part, it is universally agreed, to the support and encouragement he received from his wife, who likewise neither expected nor want- ed it.

kings, mostly, don't. But the Queen Mother was a commoner and could easily have eschewed the path of royal duty, both before her marriage and after her husband's death. Instead, she wound up as the doyenne of a royal family, and of a Naval family, over which she exercised what has been described as a "benevolent dictatorship". Certainly there was a hard core of steel behind the sweet

Most of us have choices in life. The sons (and daughters) of

smile - and it was her fighting spirit that most of all endeared her to the public in general and to the Armed Forces in particu- lar. For this reason Hitler himself described her as "the most dangerous woman in Europe".

The Queen Mother's personal grip on the collective popular imagination, which spread far beyond her homeland, is likely to long outlast her own long life, to the benefit of the monarchy; of the nation whose patriotic pride she epitomised in its darkest hour; and of the Commonwealth of nations. One of the sailors who lined the streets of London for her


s Frances Donaldson observed in her classic biography of Edward VIII: ".. . the monarchy remains only as strong as its hold on men's imaginations."

funeral, 17-year-old OM John McKenna of HMS Dryad, described the occasion as "a sad but proud landmark in my life." The fact that his grandfather was involved in the funeral of

George VI while his father before him took part in that of George V pointed to the continuing appeal of a character who bridged the generations with ease; who was of her time and yet moved with the times; who had been a fan of Noel Coward and Ivor Novello - and of Elton John and AN G, as her own great grandsons noted. Her gift for mimicry and love of theatre and music hall-style comedy also struck a chord in a Service with a long tradition of simple home entertainments that resolutely sur- vives into the computer age. Above all, she was seen as an exemplar of a trait the Royal

Navy has always demonstrated to the full - the ability to work hard and to play hard, which she saw as a duty, in good times as well as bad. Her reluctance to face the more unpleasant facts of life has

been described as "ostriching".Yet she knew that self pity is a destructive emotion - and so she simply preferred to get on with the job and keep smiling.

when the burden of kingship was thrust upon him with the abdi- cation of Edward VIII in 1936. This may have been his best qualification for the role he


hat a player' and 'You're a star' are the catch-phrases you often hear these days, when applied by Navy people to someone they feel has done them a good

HE FLAG of the Comm-ander-in- Chief


Admiral Sir Alan West was raised

for the first time at the new Fleet Headquarters at Whale Island, Portsmouth last month. At a ceremony to mark the successful updating and re- establishment of the HQ after moving from its previous loca- tion at Northwood in north- west London, Admiral West also remarked upon "the most exciting programme of ship building I have seen in my 37 years in the Navy" with a total of 21 ships currently under

construction or on order. The impact of the events of September 11 would go on for many years to come and had showed the Royal Navy to be a force for good in the world, he said. There were currently between 50 and 60 ships at sea around the world and some 7,000 RN personnel on operations away from the UK - many of them in the Middle East. Meanwhile the Navy's staff

structure had had to be updated to create greater efficiency in man- agement and the new HQ drew together the areas previously cov- ered by the separate headquarters of the Surface Flotilla, the Royal Marine, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Naval Aviation. It also allowed for the expan-

front organisations at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Faslane would enhance the local support of ships. Similar support is now in place for Royal Marines units and Naval Air Squadron.

sion of the 'Battle Staff concept to improve the command and control of both national and international operations. In addition, new Fleet water-

Headquarters better able to react to the needs of the front line, and one which can generate, deploy and sustain our forces much more

"The result is a

porary accommodation in existing buildings at Whale Island and within Portsmouth Naval Base, but a new HQ is planned to be opera- tional at HMS Excellent by the end of next year.

remain at the Northwood site, with others working at Plymouth and Faslane on the Clyde, but the new- style HQ - costing several million pounds - is firmly orientated on Portsmouth, with another 150 uni- form personnel and 100 civilians

A small number of Fleet staff

before," said Admiral West. Staff are initially occupying tem-

effectively than

• FUTURE LOOK: An artist's impression of the new Fleet headquarters at Whale Island, Portsmouth, set to open at the end of next year

some of the Fleet staff have been renamed and honour the late and much loved Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fieldhousc and Maj Gen Sir Jeremy Moore. Admiral

became Chief of Defence Staff in 1985, was himself C-in-C Fleet from 1981-82, including the crucial period of the Falklands conflict.

arriving in the city. Existing buildings to be used by

Fieldhouse, who

1983, was Commander of the British Land Forces in the success- ful campaign to recapture the islands. Lady Fieldhousc and Lady Moore were with General Moore as principal guests at the ceremony and unveiled a plaque at 'Fieldhouse' and 'Moore' build- ings.

General Moore, who retired in

Historically, the Royal Navy's links with Whale Island span three

centuries. The size of the original islandwas much expanded with the spoil removed as a result of the 19th

Portsmouth Dockyard and for many years it was the home of Naval gunnery.

century expansion of

Only a few years ago the whole establishment was threatened with closure - now its future looks ever more securely assured.

Future look of the place that puts Fleet first

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