FROM the First Sea Lord to the most junior seaman, all ranks joined together to honour the Royal Navy’s greatest hero.
Servicemen and women from across the naval service gathered on board HMS Victory in Portsmouth to celebrate the greatest sea victory in naval history with a Trafalgar Night dinner.
Ninety-four sailors and Royal Marines of all ranks were invited to join First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas and Second Sea Lord Vice-Admiral David Steel as a reward for their efforts on the front line.
Trafalgar Night is typically celebrated by the navy’s officer corps, with warrant officers and other senior ratings having their own celebration around November 4, called Pickle Night.
But more junior personnel rarely have the chance to gain an insight into this part of the Royal Navy’s heritage so, as a small start to correcting this, the Royal Navy held the mixed-rank dinner.
Leading Physical Trainer Oliver Perkins, of Portsmouth-based HMS Duncan, said: ‘For a junior rate, attending a dinner on HMS Victory was a real eye-opener.
‘It made me feel proud that I belong to something and made me realise that we still have the best navy in the world and it is just as good as we had back in 1805.’
The sailors who attended were each chosen for their hard work and excellent contributions to the Royal Navy’s front line operations.
The Band of the Royal Marines Portsmouth provided a jazz quintet but it was when sea shanties, the navy’s anthem Heart of Oak, Drunken Sailor and Rule Britannia that the gun deck came alive – thanks to singing rivalries between submariners and Royal Marines.
Able Seaman (Mine Warfare) Ollie Dodd, of Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Atherstone, added: ‘As a rating this is something that was totally alien and the privilege to not only attend such a prestigious event, but also to sit down to dinner next to the Second Sea Lord while listening to the First Sea Lord is something that I would not have envisaged happening during my naval career.’
Vice Adml Steel said: ‘The ratings had an evening I am sure they will remember forever and I am in no doubt it will be the talk of the fleet for a very long time to come.
‘But most importantly it was a way to thank them all for dedication and commitment to the naval service.’