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A Grand celebration
● ‘Yes, Royal, we normally dress like this in the Fleet...’ the NaTT
lads enter into the spirit of Trafalgar Night
21 Oct party people
HOW many sailors does it take to hold a party?
Probably just two, so seven will certainly suffi ce.
But the seven British sailors attached to the UN peacekeeping
THERE’S never a national TV company found herself featuring on the breakfast the Commonwealth country last month to
force in Kosovo were determined that the two proudest nights in
around when you want one. television show. mark 60 years together.
RN tradition were introduced to a wider audience.
Except in Malta. It was all the more remarkable as the “The idea came from a couple of members
The septet – Lts Tom Dickens and Tom Edwards, WO Martin
As sailors formed the numbers ‘6’ and commemoration by the ship’s company of the ship’s company – we thought it would
Purchase, CPOs ‘Audi’ Quantrill and Daz Nicholls, PO Gary
‘0’ on the flight deck of HMS Chatham was a bit of a ‘spur of the moment’ idea to be wonderful to mark the anniversary in
Stevens and LREG Carl Hallinon – decided to merge Trafalgar
to celebrate the diamond wedding of the coincide with the Royal couple’s anniversary this way,” said Chatham’s CO Cdr Martin
Night (typically the preserve of offi cers) and Pickle Night (typically
Queen and Prince Philip in Malta’s Grand and visit to the Mediterranean. Connell.
the preserve of ratings) for a bumper October 21 evening.
Harbour – pictured above – a GMTV camera The earlier years of the Princess Elizabeth’s “The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were
Seventy international guests were invited to Camp Slim Lines
crew happened to be wandering past. and Lt Philip Mountbatten’s married life able to see the ship from where they were
on the edge of Kosovo’s capital Pristina for an evening steeped
Several minutes later the Type 22 frigate were spent in Malta – hence their return to staying.”
in RN lore.
There was Colours to kick off the evening (no RM band in
person, but a CD pumped out via a ghettoblaster did the trick),
then it was inside the dining room, suitably adorned with bunting,
nautical paintings and fl ags (apparently including some provided
by Navy News).
There could only be one main course: Beef Wellington (paraded
in with full naval panoply) and there could only be one way to Grave responsibility
close festivities: a glass of port, while a naval auction raised £500
for Seafarers UK.
The ‘magnifi cent seven’ believe this is the fi rst Trafalgar Night
HAD they succeeded the
just happened to be 1812 history
staged at Slim Lines – and it was certainly the fi rst taste of this
legendary RN dinner for many of their guests.
fates of Britain, Canada
They are doing their best to
As for the peacekeeping mission, the Royal Navy’s input to
and the United States
raise the profi le of the American
Operation Oculus is now in its eighth year. might have been very
dead, but aside from formal
Another small(ish) RN contingent sometimes perhaps forgotten
representation most years from
about by the wider Senior Service community went to even
But they failed and the
a military attaché in Washington,
greater lengths to celebrate October 21.
British victims of the Battle of
In fact the RN and RM personnel with the Naval Transition
Britain’s part in the battle is largely
Plattsburgh lie forgotten beneath
Team, training the Iraqi Navy and Marines at Umm Qasr, had two
the undergrowth and wilderness
anniversaries to celebrate, much to the amusement (and possibly
“The Americans feel very
of an obscure island in the middle
bemusement) of US sailors, marines and coast guards.
strongly that we should honour
of a huge lake.
Despite their base being a proverbial stone’s throw from the
our dead – ideally they would like
The War of 1812 (which actually
Kuwaiti border, ordering the food for Trafalgar Night was a bit of
to put up plaque and a memorial
dragged on until 1815) saw Britain
a rigmarole.
to formally mark the battle and
and the United States lock horns
Stilton had to be imported via Kuwait (and a boat transfer)
those killed,” said Mr Beakes.
when the latter took offence to
while much planning was needed to ensure the chocolate did not
“If you have sailed 3,000 miles
the Royal Navy’s stranglehold on
to fi ght a battle, then I think it is
trade and Whitehall’s support for
It didn’t, for ten ships of the line were crafted by the chefs. They
only right that we honour these
American Indians.
were devoured only after Lt Cdrs Matt Payne and Toby Norman
men who died for something they
The war was stuck in relative
and Lt Rob Wickham had guided diners through the intricacies
believed in.
stalemate in the early autumn of
of Trafalgar in a mini-reenactment of the battle (complete with
“I’ll be honest. Until last year
1814 when more than 11,000
pyrotechnics and cannon fi re).
I didn’t have a clue about this
British troops struck south for the
Exactly seven days later, it was the Royals turn to rule the roost
heart of New York state.
● A contemporary American painting celebrating victory at
as they celebrated the 343rd birthday of the Corps.
By the second week of
Plattsburgh and (below) an engraving of a commemorative coin
“But now I do – and I wasn’t
This was a rather more poignant affair. After an afternoon
September the force had occupied
struck across the Pond
prepared for the horror that I saw
of sport and high-spirits, the dinner ended with the lighting of
when I visited Crab Island. You
the town of Plattsburgh on
candles in memory of absent friends – especially relevant as many
fl otilla was captured. At least 140 middle of the lake.
wouldn’t know there was a mass
Lake Champlain, a huge natural
of the commandos had either just returned from Afghanistan or
men on both sides had made the And that brings our story up to
grave down there.”
waterway straddling the border of
were about to deploy there.
ultimate sacrifi ce. date.
If you are interested in
the USA and Canada.
The great naval strategist Two centuries after this decisive
supporting Mr Beakes’ campaign,
There the Brits halted, their
Alfred Mahan called the Battle of battle former merchant sailor and
he can be contacted at 198 Kirby
progress thwarted by poor supply
Plattsburgh the one ‘decisive’ clash psychiatric nurse Laurie Beakes
Road, North End, Portsmouth.
routes, American defences and a
of the War of 1812. The invading visited the site of the clash – and
■ ALSO in the realm of Anglo-
US fl eet in charge of the lake.
army fell back to Canadian soil was horrifi ed by what he found.
American friendship, members
The commander of expedition,
and within months Britain and the No-one knows where on Crab
of the Ancient and Honorable
General George Prevost,
USA had signed a peace treaty. Island the victims of the battle are
Artillery Company were on board
demanded the Royal Navy come
The ferocity of the battle on buried; the mass grave lies hidden
HMS Victory to make a special
to his aid.
the lake contrasted sharply with beneath 200 years of undergrowth.
It did in the shape of Capt
its aftermath, when humanity Save for a monument erected a
The American fl ag which
George Downie’s squadron, led
after victory was indeed the century after the fi ghting, it would
fl uttered on the USS Constitution
by the brand-new frigate HMS
predominant feature. be impossible to tell a decisive
on Nelson’s birthday, September
Confi ance. So new was she that
Offi cers of both sides were struggle once raged here.
29, was handed over to Victory’s
she was barely fi t for action.
buried with full military honours, The 60-year-old from
CO Lt Cdr John Scivier.
Mid-morning on September
their graves marked by plaques Portsmouth admits that he too
The Constitution is a
11 1814 – after the Brits had
and headstones. knew nothing of the battle until
contemporary of the Victory
breakfasted heartily – the two
Ratings too were buried side- a search for relatives led them
(she is a frigate, however, rather
fl eets clashed off Plattsburgh.
by-side on a 40-acre island in the to family in Plattsburgh… who
than a ship of the line) and like
As battles go, it was particularly Nelson’s fl agship, she is still in
ferocious. Downie was killed commission. Unlike Victory,
within the fi rst 15 minutes of however, Constitution still puts to
action (but not before Confi ance sea occasionally.
had killed 40 sailors on the US In return for the gift from
fl agship Saratoga with her our American cousins, Lt Cdr
opening broadside). Scivier handed over the White
For almost three hours Ensign raised on Victory
the battle raged. “Never on July 4 when he visited
was a shower of hail so Boston and the Constitution
thick as the shot whistling to discuss how best to care
about our ears,” recalled for such great ships.
one midshipman aboard “We’ve come a long
Confi ance. A Royal Marine, way from the turbulent and
veteran of Trafalgar, confrontational period in the
proclaimed the 1805 battle “a early 19th Century when these
mere fl ea bite” compared with two ships were fi ghting for
the carnage off Plattsburgh. opposing navies,” he said. “From
It was all over by lunchtime. The those times, we’ve become fi rm
Americans triumphed. The British friends and strong allies.”
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