NOSTALGIA: Giant propeller which helps drive the new pride of the Royal Navy

A reserve propeller blade from HMS Queen Elizabeth. 'Picture: Terry Bye.

Many of you will have watched the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth leaving Portsmouth Harbour for the first time last month.

You may have wondered what was driving a ship of such size?

A replica of HMS Pickle in Portsmouth naval base.

Thanks to reader Terry Bye I can show you, for here is a reserve propeller blade for the propellers in use.

It weighs 33 tonnes and this is just one of the five that are attached to each hub.

It is seven metres (nearly 22ft) in diameter and can be replaced without dry docking.

That is ten propellers to power the ship along at a maximum speed of 25 knots.

Boys at St Vincent, Gosport, manning the mast in the parade ground.

n Last Tuesday I published photos from a navy Pickle Night but apparently I got some facts wrong, as Tom Coleman points out.

He writes: ‘I am an ex-Warrant Officer Steward and a matelot of 32 years’ service in uniform and a seven as an RN civilian mess manager.

‘I must correct your statement in last Tuesday’s News that Pickle Night has been commemorated since 1805 when Pickle returned with the news of Trafalgar and Nelson’s death.

‘This is a commonly-held myth that one hears regularly from those who don’t know the origins of the dinner celebrations. This includes serving and ex-serving members of the Royal Navy.

On Wednesday and Thursday a strike is planned on South Western Railways so some of you might have a problem reaching Liphook, let alone London Waterloo.''In the early days of the Portsmouth main line conditions must have been quite awful for a cartoonist to produce this suggested scene at Liphook.''Picture: George Millener Collection

‘I can tell you with 100 per cent certainty that Pickle Night started life in Gibraltar in HMS Rooke’s Senior Rates Mess in the late ’80s-early ’90s. It was brought back from there by Warrant Officer Shipwright, Brian (surname withheld).

‘Brian was WOs’ and Sen Rates mess president while I was serving in HMS Nelson when chosen dates for Trafalgar Night (October 21) in both the Wardroom Mess and the WOs’ and Senior Rates Mess clashed.

‘The Executive Officer was not happy. There were not enough gate staff to marshall both functions on the same night and told Brian he would have to cancel his function.

‘Brian was not happy and decided on a Pickle Night (weekend containing Nov 4) instead. This avoided a clash and divorced ‘his’ Pickle Night from the traditional officers’ celebration of Trafalgar Night. It also stamped his own (WOs and SRs) claim on Pickle Night distinguishing it from the officer corps ever since.

‘That Pickle Night at HMS Nelson was the first in a UK mess. It was either 1991/1992, but definitely not the early 19th century.

‘I have not heard of a Warrant Officers’ and Senior Ratings Mess celebrating Trafalgar Night since.’

Thanks Tom, now we all know.

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