Last Thursday, October 19, 40-odd good ladies and gentlemen of Sidmouth enjoyed the local Royal Naval Old Comrades Association (RNOCA)’s 110th Trafalgar Night.

The honoured guest was Captain Philip Jackson, MN, who in a glittering career was twice master of both the Oriana and Canberra, and in the fashion of a true man of the sea, and also a rugby player, he made sure he was there even after an unpleasant car accident had shaken him up the previous day. Everyone very much enjoyed his charming company.

Sarah Mounoury, curate at Woolbrook, delivered prayers at her first Trafalgar as RNOCA Chaplain.

Also in attendance was Lieutenant Commander Martin Mayger, RN of TS Saumarez in Twickenham. Martin, and his unit Petty Officer David Morris who had travelled down after recognition of the Old Comrades' possession of HMS Saumarez’s rum tub - both looked splendid in mess kit. The Corfu Channel Incident of 1946 cost the lives of 44 men of HMS Saumarez and Volage. The losses occurred the day after Trafalgar Day, and they are always remembered at the dinner.

Another dark event that coincided with Trafalgar occurred on 22nd - 23rd October 1943, 80yrs ago, when a force of seven warships left Plymouth to cross the Channel on Operation Tunnel. There they were ambushed by five German ‘Elbing’ torpedo-boats and sank the cruiser HMS Charybdis, and severely disabled the destroyer HMS Limbourne.  In total, 507 men and boys lost their lives. Among them were three Sidmouth men - William Liverton of Manstone, Edmund Purchase of Russell St. and Leicester Boyce of Livonia Rd. Also lost was John Jewes, one of three brothers of Beryl and Margaret Jewes, who have lived in Coburg Rd for 26yrs. They came to the dinner, and were both touched and proud to see that their brother and his ship-mates were remembered. More on this sad incident, next month at Remembrance

A Sidmouth Town Band quintet played a medley of naval and other tunes to everyone’s great delight. They are such a valuable asset to Sidmouth. Preceding the band was our own Martin Dunkin, who delivered a witty account of a sailor’s leave in ‘Jack Speak’ - sailors’ language.

Incidentally, Martin, who is a Falklands war veteran, will be off down South for Remembrance Day, so he and his wife Tremayne are wished a safe and happy trip. After Christmas Martin will provide us with a talk on life down there now, including photos of prominent war memorials and landmarks. This will surely be of interest to the half-a-dozen Falklands veteran Royal Marines who attended the dinner, and gave a rousing rendition of Life on the Ocean Wave, whilst the whole gathering then sang Heart of Oak.

The music and singing were a revival of a tradition that commenced with the inception of the Association before WWI - but had died out in recent decades. Sidmouth RNOCA is one of, if not the, oldest such groups in the country, formed as it was in the Anchor Hotel on 8th May 1912. Previously, as well as good fellowship, in the tough post-Great War years, the Association stepped up to provided welfare assistance to sailors’ families.

Thankfully, the days when money, medicine and coal needed to be distributed have long passed, but these days, Sidmouth RNOCA is still about good fellowship between all men and women who have been paid by the RN, or MN. We are also about - both formally and informally - preserving the memories of those who gave their lives and limbs performing deeds, both magnificent and more ordinary, for our country. We also endeavour to preserve our nation’s great maritime history - in particular as it relates to Sidmouth and its surrounds.

So, if you are a former matelot, Marine, nurse or sailor under any British ensign, you may join as a full member - and those who had family members who were, or are history buffs, may join as associates. Contact the Secretary