Joint Dinner Aboard HQS Wellington, Wednesday 18 March 2015
On Wednesday 18 March, the Company embarked upon the good ship HQS Wellington, which is permanently moored on the Thames just east of Temple underground station. The occasion was our biennial joint dinner with the Fletchers and it was our pleasure this year to play host to our sister company, at a black tie 'Ladies Night' Dinner. We were also delighted to welcome as our guest the Master Gunmaker.
HQS Wellington, the last surviving member of the Grimsby Class of warships, served with distinction on convoy escort duties on the North Atlantic in the Second World War. During six years of wartime service, she rescued over 450 Merchant Navy seamen and was active at Dunkirk and the North African landings. She has been moored on the Thames since 1948 when she became the floating livery hall of the Master Mariners' Company and was converted from 'Her Majesty's Ship' to 'Head Quarters Ship', hence the 'HQS'.
It was therefore with a sense of history as well as occasion that we stepped on board, and it very much felt like a step back in time to be within the ship's heavy iron structure: its gunwhales, steep steps and portholes. After a bustling champagne reception on deck, we made our way down to the dining room, which is striking: first because you don't quite expect to see a livery hall dining room in a ship, and second because you don't expect the ship to contain a room as large as this. It was full to capacity, which made for a most convivial evening.
The Master Bowyer entertained us in his inimitable style and to loud cheers reported the reference that the Chancellor had made to Agincourt earlier in the day during his Budget Speech: "The battle of Agincourt [the Chancellor said] is of course celebrated by Shakespeare as a victory secured by a 'band of brothers'. It is also when a strong leader defeated an ill-judged alliance between a champion of a united Europe and a renegade force of Scottish nationalists. So it is well worth the £1 million we will provide to celebrate it." This gift was wonderful and surprise news for the Agincourt 600 committee in which our Court Assistant Dr Sinclair Rogers has played such a crucial role.
Further entertainment took the form of some fine violinists and trumpeteers, and we sang and imbibed heartily. It was a lovely evening all round - the two Companies at their congenial best.