HMS Ajax & River Plate Veterans Association




In the days leading up to the 2018 Reunion in Plymouth the weather forecast looked decidedly “iffy”, particularly for the Saturday morning – bang on the time for us to gather at The Hoe. Friday morning setting off for Plymouth a last look at the telly produced an ominous picture- time to think of a contingency plan.

After checking in at The New Continental the committee members gathered at 5 pm for a committee meeting and all agreed The Hoe was not the place to be in high winds, torrential rain and cold to boot. Some hasty phone calls and emails resulted in being able to divert the bugler, band and vicar to the hotel next morning for a sensible indoor service.

After that we were able to relax and enjoy the excellent dinner and catch up with other members.


Next morning dawned blustery but dry and after breakfast we set up the room for the memorial service; cosy it was but served the purpose. The bugler and 7 members of the Devonport Naval Volunteer band based in HMS Drake squeezed in the back of the room having adjusted the stacked chairs. The white ensign made the bar grill look nautical. Chairman Nigel Masters welcomed everyone and handed over to Rev Peter Warland RN Retired to conduct the service. The band spurred everyone in to hearty singing and then Peter Danks gave the Reading. The names of those who had crossed the bar since our last service were read out by Nigel Masters and Dennis Talbot delivered the Exhortation. The bugler sounded the Last Post and Alf Larkin dipped the Standard. Reveille ended the two minute silence and Mike Fox laid the wreath of remembrance. At the end of the service a quick glance out the window confirmed the weatherman had got it slightly wrong as the rain never really arrived and the wind was only slightly blustery, nevertheless, we probably did the right thing coming indoors.


Following the service, after a quick change of clothes 32 of us loaded on to the waiting coach to take us to the Devonport Naval Museum. The out-of-town coach driver, narrow streets and roadworks made for an interesting mystery tour but eventually, after realigning sections of roadwork barriers, we managed to park. The visit started with a Cornish, or should that be Devonshire, pastie before splitting into two guided groups and toured the various rooms and exhibits. The fact that it wasn’t a particularly large museum meant that one could take in many of displays including the River Plate one. After a couple of hours and more alignment of barriers we headed back to the hotel to relax before the start of the evening festivities. The hotel was heaving as there was a very large Greek wedding being held there although the hotel was large enough to lose them once they went off to celebrate.


Up-spirits at 6pm and rum bosuns Alf Larkin & Doug Harris performed duties at the rum tub and handed the tots to the gathering crowds before we moved to the dining room for the wine reception. Over 50 members and guests sat down to the five course gala meal with wine provided in accordance with the wishes of the late Ted Wicks “… that the money is used for my contribution to the party that they have after my death …”  and we raised our glasses in his memory.


Following dinner, with port glasses charged, Dennis Talbot, with a request that we remain seated, gave the Loyal Toast.


The Chairman during his speech presented a silver salver to Debbie Steer from Ajax for onward presentation to the Mayor of Ajax Steve Parish to mark his retirement.

For the benefit of those just there for the meal Malcolm Collis gave an overview of the planned itinerary for the 2019 South America trip.


The singer Tony England performing as The Rolling Tones entertained us. He was a former member of the 70’s group Paper Lace but despite requests from one former fan he declined to perform “Billy don’t be a hero”!


During the interval the raffle was held before the singer resumed and once he had finished guests slowly retired leaving a group of die-hards reminiscing, although to be fair several of them hadn’t seen each other for 40 years.


Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, 26 members gathered for the Annual General Meeting and afterwards, with the sun shining and the wind calm, many boarded the coach to travel down to the harbour front to join the Venturer for our cruise up the River Tamar past several navy ships, entertained by the Captain’s commentary pointing out the many points of interest. It really was a beautiful warm day and all agreed it had been a most enjoyable trip. Some returned to the hotel by coach while the more energetic took in the glorious sun whilst they strolled along the harbour front.


We all came together later for another evening meal followed by end-of-weekend socialising although most opted for an earlier night. A leisurely breakfast set us all up for our return journeys and after fond farewells we headed off. All agreed the weekend had been a great success with many saying it had been the best yet, in no small part thanks to the Isle of Wight Ltd and their Rep Jackie Bull who had looked after us throughout our stay.


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