On Monday 27 October the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL, and the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral David Steel CBE DL, hosted an All Ranks and Rates Trafalgar Dinner onboard HMS Victory. 

The traditional Royal Navy commemoration of the Battle of Trafalgar has, in general, only been observed by the Officer Corps, although many Warrant Officers and Senior Ratings’ Messes do reflect on the battle with their own Pickle Night dinners.  More junior personnel rarely have the chance to gain an insight into this wonderful part of our maritime history and, as a small start to correcting this and to building a greater understanding of our history and therefore ethos, a mixed rank Trafalgar Dinner was hosted with the support of funding from The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. 

Nominations to attend were received from Commanding Officers of front line units, with a final 94 being chosen for the dinner. Each guest was selected for their hard work, determination and positive contribution to operational effectiveness. The wide range of specialisations and trades highlighted the incredible talent that exists within Naval Service personnel; all were wholly deserving of attending this prestigious event.  

Charity support

The event was made possible by a grant from The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. Robert Robson, Chief Executive of the RNRMC, stated: “The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity exist to recognise and reward excellence, innovation and efficiency so when the Charity was approached to support the evening’s celebrations it was an easy decision. I am delighted to offer congratulations to all who have been invited to the historic ship on this memorable evening. Where better than to signal our desire to mark the excellence, flair and dash in today’s Service than in the week that we remember a man for whom these were his trademark.”  

Another contributor to the evening was a grant from the Rebalancing Lives Fund.  The Command Warrant Officers were delighted to have been able to back a small grant from the fund in order to assist with the success of this event. WO1 Stef Mannucci, Command Warrant Officer Submarines, stated that: “Saying thank you to our people is an important tenet of what we must do instinctively – and the small contribution from the RBL fund helps make that thank you more memorable.” 

The evening began with a tour of HMS Victory followed by a group photo on the Quarterdeck. This then paved the way for a champagne reception on the Upper Gun Deck where guests were able to absorb the atmosphere on board and speak with fellow guests. A Royal Marine Bugler performed the ‘Call to Dinner’ with 102 guests then proceeding to the Lower Gun Deck for a traditional Mess dinner, which included an old favourite, Beef Wellington, along with a classic sticky toffee pudding for ‘duff’.  

   



The Royal Marines Band Portsmouth provided a Jazz Quintet who were on hand to ensure a lively backdrop to the evening, particularly when the Lower Gun Deck came alive with sea shanties and renditions of Hearts of Oak, Drunken Sailor and Rule Britannia. Added into the mix was some good old fashioned rivalry amongst the submariners and Royal Marines. It was, however, the Royal Marines who came away the loudest, but perhaps not the most in tune!

Seal of approval

LPT Oliver Perkins from HMS Duncan thoroughly enjoyed the evening, he said: “It was an insight into Naval tradition with Trafalgar Night and Pickle Night usually being reserved for Senior Rates and above, so for a Junior Rate attending a dinner on HMS Victory it was a real eye opener. It made me feel proud that I belong to something and made me realise that we have still the best Navy in the world and it is just as good as we had back in 1805.” He went on to thank the Charity, for without its funding the event would not have happened  

AB(MW) Ollie Dodd, nominated from HMS Atherstone said: “As a rating this is something that was totally alien to myself and the privilege to not only attend such a prestigious event, but also to sit down to dinner next to 2SL, whilst listening to 1SL, is something that I would not have envisaged happening during my Naval career.” 

Vice Admiral Steel CBE DL added: “Ninety-four of our Junior and Senior Ratings had an evening that I am sure they will remember for ever and I am in no doubt at all that it will be the talk of the Fleet for a very long time to come. But most importantly, it was a way for 1SL and me to thank them all personally for their dedication and commitment to the Naval Service. It was an absolute delight to meet some of the incredibly talented sailors and Marines that the Naval Service is so very lucky to have.”

One of the Junior Rates attending, LLogs(SC) Naomi Doyle from HMS Protector stated: “It was a truly overwhelming evening enriched in history, Naval tradition with plenty of atmospheric emotions shared between my fellow comrades. I was personally honoured and privileged to have been awarded this opportunity to attend a commemorative evening to respect a poignant victory, The Battle of Trafalgar. I proudly raised my glass to one of the greatest war heroes, Admiral Lord Nelson, onboard HMS Victory and thought what triumph.”

It was a very special night enjoyed by some of the Naval Service’s brightest and best people. All of the guests had a thoroughly enjoyable evening which will remain in their memories for years to come.

It is hoped that this will become an annual event with more deserving Junior Rates and Senior Rates being selected in future years.