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News > OP Reunions and Events > Gala Lunch aboard HQS Wellington

Gala Lunch aboard HQS Wellington

Thursday 01 September saw 78 OPs & guests on HQS Wellington for a gala lunch in celebration of Capt. Robin Batt (61-64), the 2nd OP to be appointed Master of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

On Thursday 1st September, 78 OPs and guests boarded the HQS Wellington, the Headquarters Ship of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners (HCMM), to attend a reception and gala lunch in recognition and celebration of Captain Robin Batt (1961-64) being only the second OP to be appointed Master of the HCMM.

Six years after registration in 1926, the HCMM became the first Guild to be admitted to the ancient fraternity of the Livery of Guildhall after an interval of more than two centuries. Both were considerable achievements at the time and were followed in 1949 by provision of a ship-borne Livery Hall in the shape of the former sloop HMS Wellington, moored within the City boundary at Temple Stairs on Victoria Embankment where she has remained to this day.

Completed in 1934, in the years prior to World War II, HMS Wellington served for four years on the New Zealand Station, visiting many ports of that country and the British administered islands of the vast South West Pacific. During the 6 years of war Wellington provided escort to 103 convoys on the eastern side of the Atlantic, rescuing many survivors from sunken ships in the process.

Against this historic background of maritime endeavour, a limited number of OPs and guests, who were lucky enough to secure a place on a ship’s tour, arrived an hour before the main body and assembled on the main deck. They were shown around the Wellington in two groups by Captain Batt and Captain Stephen Taylor RN (55-60), past Chairman of the Wellington Trust. From the bell of SS Ohio, a 16,000-ton oil tanker which relieved the blockade of Malta, together with a plethora of models of Merchant and Royal Naval vessels, including a magnificent model of the Cunard Liner, RMS Aquitania, to numerous artefacts, ancient charts, paintings (one of which is the only full length portrait ever painted of King Edward VIII) and silver pieces, the OPs and guests were treated to a very special insight into the history of the Merchant Navy by two very knowledgeable OP guides.

At noon everyone assembled on the Quarterdeck to enjoy wonderful views of the Thames for a pre-lunch reception. The OPs ranged in age from Courtney Edenborough, 91, to the two most junior, Georgia Paterson and Poppy Wright, both 19 – a span of 72 years – and the College date range was from 1945 to 2021 – 76 years.

Prior to going down to the Courtroom for lunch, Headmaster Thomas Garnier gave a short address in which he said Pangbourne was the fullest it has ever been with 462 pupils. He said that their time at the College was not all about exam results, but character development and values. Having said that Thomas went on to note that the recent GCSE and A Level exam results were excellent as a whole, with the Btech results classed as outstanding.

The Courtroom, which was originally the Wellington’s engine room, was elegantly laid out for the magnificent gala lunch with a top table and three springs. After Grace, said by the Master, OPs and guests were treated to Smoked Salmon, topped with samphire and citrus dressing, followed by Supreme of Guinea Fowl with a honey and cream sauce, all washed down with copious quantities of very quaffable white and red wine. The Loyal Toast, proposed by the Master, (proposed earlier than normal), in consideration for the possible needs of the older guests, preceded a dessert of Blueberry & Lemon Tart with vanilla ice cream.

Coffee and truffles were served prior to the Chairman of the OP Society, Phillip Plato (73-77) proposing the toast to Robin Batt and the HCMM. Phillip started his address by thanking Robin Paine (55-58) for organising the event. He then gave a résumé of Robin Batt’s career leading up to him becoming Master of the HCMM.

Phillip went on to say:

In 1948 the Devitt & Moore shipping company, whose owners founded Pangbourne College, moved their London Headquarters office onto this very ship.

The background to this is that the Honourable Company of Master Mariners had bought this vessel from the Admiralty in 1947, moored it at the Embankment and had then started looking around for ways to make the vessel pay. The Devitt & Moore shipping company previously had offices in Leadenhall Street after returning to London from the Nautical College Pangbourne in 1946. Until they secured permanent new offices, they were happy to move into HQS Wellington as an interim arrangement.

We are unsure how long this lasted but the connection with HQS Wellington, the Devitt & Moore shipping company and our College therefore makes this a most appropriate venue for us to celebrate Robin’s achievement today.

Phillip then congratulated Robin on his career and achievements and proposed the Toast to ‘Captain Robin Batt and the Honourable Company of Master Mariners’.

Robin Batt responded by thanking Phillip Plato for his kind words and welcoming the son and daughter-in-law of the first OP Master, Sir Robin Gillett 1979 - 1980, Sir Nicholas Gillett (69-73) and Lady Cecilia Gillett, who had travelled from their home in the United States for the occasion. Sir Robin Gillett also became Lord Mayor of the City of London. Robin went on to say:

1917 was the year that the Devitt & Moore shipping company bought a tract of land and buildings on the hill above Pangbourne and brought their cadets ashore to The Nautical College Pangbourne.

Fast forward to 1927. At the behest of King George V, the Liverpool Guild of Master Mariners, formed by the King’s friend, Master Mariner and MP of the Wirral Sir Robert Burton Chadwick was brought to the City of London. In 1930 we received our Royal Charter and in 1932 the Aldermanic Court of Guild Hall granted us Livery. The First Master was the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VIII). In 1927 we had no Livery Hall so rented the back offices of the Devitt & Moore Shipping Company until 1946, so for me a wonderful connection that has come full circle.

From 1917 to the mid 1960’s approx. just over 1000 Pangbourne Cadets joined the British Merchant Navy approximately 100 of whom obtained Foreign going Masters Certificates. Sadly, by the late 1980’s the number of British Shipping Companies left could be counted on two hands.

By the time the Master sat down there were a multitude of OPs wanting to get up to say something, but the Master sensibly rang the ships bell, located on the Courtroom dais behind the top table, and announced that proceedings were over, but the bar was open in the Wardroom.

A wonderful day had been had by all and, notwithstanding the high spirits of the assembled company, lunch nevertheless finished on the same day.

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