DISTINGUISHED guests united to celebrate the anniversary of a much-loved city institution in style.
Scores of visitors flocked to Old Portsmouth on Thursday night to mark 150 years of the Portsmouth Royal Naval Club.
Commemorations began with a champagne reception, before the full Portsmouth band of the Royal Marines serenaded guests with the Beating Retreat beneath the city sunset.
In attendance was Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy and president of the club – known jointly as the Royal Naval Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club.
He said: ‘This is a rather splendid feeling. This is the naval city and in a world where everything is changing, it is quite nice to see some things that are steadily surviving, such as this club.
‘As you walk around the clubhouse, heritage just seeps from the walls and seeing everyone here tonight only cements the place of this club in our society.’
After the spectacular musical performance drew to a close on a cordoned-off stretch of Pembroke Road, guests filtered into the venue to celebrate and share stories.
After giving a speech, club chairman Keith Toomey said: ‘This has been nine months of planning and it is absolutely incredible. There have been an awful lot of our members crying because this is so significant.’
Alongside the changing face of the Royal Navy and society itself, Mr Toomey says the club is adapting.
He said: ‘Last year we increased our membership for the first time in years and it’s all about recognising what people really want.
‘We have got to be modern and one of the problems we’ve had is dress code.
‘We’ve changed this for lunch times and now people don’t have to wear a jacket and tie, we’ve gone from six people for lunch to about 60 because people are bringing their entire families. It’s fantastic to see.’
Established in 1867, the Royal Naval Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club was built to serve as a meeting place and a refuge for naval officers.
Since then, 19 members of the club have been awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest award attainable by personnel in the British armed forces.
Major General Rob Magowan, Commandant General of the Royal Marines joined with his naval colleagues to celebrate.
He said: ‘As the Commandant General I have honorary membership of this fantastic and prestigious club.
‘There was no way I was going to miss an evening like this – to celebrate 150 years.’