Navy breaks from tradition as wives dropped from toast

TRADITION Guests at a Naval Trafalgar dinner
TRADITION Guests at a Naval Trafalgar dinner
The fragment from the Union Jack believed to have flown on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Credit: Sotheby's

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FOR decades the Royal Navy has recited the same toasts before formal dinners.

But now, in a bid to bring the navy into the 21st century, and address the fact that women also service in the forces, two of the them have been changed.

The Ministry of Defence said naval officers would no longer raise their glasses on a Saturday and toast ‘our wives and sweethearts’ – usually met with the unofficial reply ‘may they never meet’.

Instead an instruction by the Second Sea Lord Vice-Admiral David Steel, has modified it to say ‘our families’.

The change has been put down to the fact there have now been women at sea for more than two decades.

A second toast made on Tuesday nights has also been changed from ‘our men’ to ‘our sailors’.

But not everyone welcomes the changes.

Mike Critchley is a former naval officer and book publisher, from Gosport.

He said: ‘I see the whole thing as unnecessary.

‘It’s a bit of a storm in a teacup, the navy doesn’t go around toasting everybody.

‘It’s a reflection of political correctness, and if that’s considered important, then that’s what it is.

‘The navy has moved forward and doesn’t host as many dinners like it used to.’

The navy said the changes have been made to reflect cultural changes.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: ‘To reflect cultural changes and our modern and inclusive navy, two of the naval toasts used at mess dinners have been updated.

‘The Royal Navy values the diversity and range of its personnel, and it is only right that its traditional toasts should reflect the fact women have been at sea for more than 20 years.’

Although women have served at sea since 1990, it was only last year when the first woman was made commander of a frontline Royal Navy warship.

The navy has traditional toasts for every night of the week.

But such toasts are mainly made during large celebratory dinners or when a ship has anchored – not every day. The toasts are now as follows:

Sunday: ‘absent friends’.

Monday: ‘our ships at sea’.

Tuesday: ‘our sailors’.

Wednesday: ‘ourselves (as no-one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare)’.

Thursday: ‘a A bloody war or a sickly season’.

Friday: ‘a willing foe and sea-room’.

Saturday: ‘Our families’.