Members and guests granted their guest speaker a rare standing ovation at the Maritime Volunteer Service’s annual Trafalgar Night Dinner. As well they might.
Royal Naval veteran Harry Waddingham served throughout World War Two and, as detailed in last week’s Observer, survived having two ships sunk beneath him due to enemy action.
Two days before his 100th birthday, Harry delighted East Sussex Sovereign Harbour Unit Mess of the MVS with a variation on the traditional toast to the Immortal Memory of Admiral Lord Nelson that was all his own.
Witty, concise, controversially challenging in that he revealed the Admiral’s weaknesses as well as his strengths, and packed with historical detail, the centenarian delivered it without notes or microphone.
Nelson was both vain and a gambler, Mr Waddingham said. The four huge stars he wore on his uniform had been purchased in Naples for a guinea a time. He had a complete disregard for accepted tactics, scoring victories by taking such chances as allowing the enemy to “cross the t” (thereby bringing its maximum number of guns to bear).
But Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar led to the Pax Britannica, Royal Naval superiority which “kept the whole world in order” for a century
Mr Waddingham was accompanied at the function hosted by Bexhill Sailing Club by his wife, Colette.
He had been introduced by Chief Volunteer Greg Darby on behalf of Head of Unit Keith Johnson. The singing of sea shanties, led by Chief Volunteer Frost concluded the evening.
The MVS Sovereign Harbour Unit began as the Bexhill Unit, formed when the Bexhill Royal Naval Auxiliary Unit was axed in the 1994 defence cuts. It is now based at Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour, where East Sussex 1, its 16-metre ex-RN Kiwi Class harbour patrol vessel, is moored and its six-metre rigid inflatable and hovercraft kept.
Members train weekly in seamanship, engineering and marine operations. It offers training in maritime skills to local youth groups. MVS membership is open to over-18s.
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