- OCdt Rachel Mawer
Friday the 26th of January marked the annual G&SURNU Burns night dinner, and it was not a night to be missed. As our guests arrived, they were ushered upstairs to the bar and given a warm welcome. Once all had arrived, we were seated in the dining hall and served a delicious three-course meal. Our meal was punctuated by a series of entertaining sketches, detailing the life of Robert Burns, starring some of our talented students: OCdts Bell, Kay, Ballantyne and Mills. This was supplemented by a thoughtful speech by OCdt Harries, who went into more detail about the life of the bard and related it to modern times. Everyone was also treated to the humorous toasts to the Lads and Lassies, by OCdts Jones and Clark respectively. All URNU members waited anxiously to hear if the pair had any gossip on them! After the dinner ended, tables were hastily cleared for a spot of ceilidh dancing with a live band. Overall, it was an excellent and entertaining night, with plenty of fun to be had. I would like to thank the organisers of the event, particularly Mid MacKenzie, for a superb evening.
- OCdt Rachel Mawer
Remembrance Sunday was held this year on the 12th November with G&S URNU playing a leading role as always. The first years put in an excellent effort and the unit was remarked on for their excellent standard of drill, all thanks to the superb training from Sub. Lt. Martin Cullen. Mustered at an unholy hour, everyone was turned out immaculately with Windsor knots tied, shoes sparkling and trousers creased to perfection. The chapel service featured a reading from OCdt Joshua Green and the wreath was laid by 1st year OCdt McGregor. After the service all the university training corps headed back for some light lunch. It was an excellent show by the unit for this very sombre occasion.
- OCdt Jethro Barclay
On the 20 October 2017, nearly 212 years after the battle itself, G&S URNU hosted its annual Trafalgar Night Dinner. As usual the evening began with welcome drinks in the mess before we moved through to the drill hall which was dressed from head to toe in bunting and white ensigns. Our entertainment throughout the meal was of course a re-enactment of the battle of Trafalgar which was brought to life by 3 of our very talented students. OCdt Mairi Watt-Cooper gave a fantastic performance as Napoleon, complete with French accent and baguette sword (that she may or may not have snacked on between courses). Lady Hamilton was portrayed by OCdt Joshua Green who proved to be extremely committed to the role and looked fantastic in a skirt and bonnet. Mid Cameron Wragg gave an excellent performance as Lord Nelson and Mid Kieran Smith played a convincing Captain Hardy. After dinner the Deacon of the Hammermen gave his speech which included a lot of bad puns and then it was our guest speaker’s turn, Captain Carl Lias, to deliver his speech which reminds us why we celebrate this battle every year. Mess fines were handed out and then of course it was time for some out of tune sea shanties to end our fantastic dinner.
After a few drinks in the mess, everyone went back through into the drill hall for the usual after dinner ceilidh. The band was fantastic and even the newcomers to ceilidh dancing were enjoying themselves. Mess games were played and we celebrated the rest of the night with many drinks.
A special thanks must go to OCdt Ciara MacKenzie who produced a fantastic night which was enjoyed by everyone, as well as thanks to our guest speakers for entertaining us all after dinner. I think it’s safe to say it was unforgettable night and one of the highlights of the year for the unit.
Phase 4 of summer was unusual. To start with there were only three students on board which meant there was more room around the ship but a lot more work and I am happy to report that we are now all excellent at morning and evening colours, the daily flag raising and lowering ceremonies.
The first day was a real treat as we were sailing past the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in company with HMS Dasher, another P2000. As we sailed around her, her commander invited us on board and we became her first visitors since she was launched. Our whirlwind tour took us up to the bridge, the aircraft hangar (which is bigger than a football pitch) and one of the systems control rooms before we had to leave to sail to the Orkney Islands.
In Orkney we took part in the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of HMS Vanguard, a St Vincent class dreadnought battleship that had served in the battle of Jutland. On the 9th July 1917 in Scapa Flow her magazine supply exploded killing nearly everyone on board. From our small role in the proceedings it was clear to see that the tragic accident still has a powerful effect on the relatives of those who lost their lives and those who live on the island.
For the rest of our trip around the west coast of Scotland we were in company with HMS Dasher, Bristol URNU’s affiliated ship which had travelled from Lands’ End all the way to John O’Groats. Sailing past the stunning scenery of Cape Wrath and the Kyle of Lochalsh, arguably one of the world’s most stunning natural environments, our final stop was Portrush where we bid farewell to HMS Dasher and headed back to Scotland to conclude the year’s summer deployment.
Phase 3 started in Whitehaven, and as soon as we stepped foot on ship we were told we would be sailing that night to Bangor. We made it to Bangor Marina at 0200 and were rewarded with a long lie the next morning.
Due to weather and Armed Forces Day commitments, we stayed in Bangor for 5 days. We were not, however, without things to do. A few students attended the Armed Forces Day event, while the rest remained on ship to help host some special guests (and a very special dog) on board. We were also given a day off and so 5 students took a day trip to Belfast where we visited city hall and the titanic museum as well as treating ourselves to a traditional Irish pub lunch.
Saying goodbye to Bangor, we sailed to Carrickfergus where we stayed for only one night, basically enough time for us to do a shop at the local Sainsbury’s. Then after a last minute change of plans, again due to weather, we made our way to Campbeltown where we stayed for a few days and filled those days with charts, PLTs and cleaning.
Now on to Oban where we had the pleasure of a tour of the Oban distillery, a first for many of the students on board. We were given whisky to taste and even given a free glass as a souvenir. It was an enjoyable experience and later that day Lt Botfield hosted some friends from the distillery on-board Pursuer.
On the last leg of our journey, we were joined by HMS Dasher and we made our way from Oban, through the Caledonian Canal, to Inverness. It was then when the Commander of the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron joined us, spending a day on HMS Dasher and then a day with us on HMS Pursuer as we made our way through the Canal. During the journey, Mid Walker and Mid Urquhart decided to test their fitness by running alongside the ship from lock to lock.
On our last evening before reaching Inverness, we decided to have a swim in the deepest loch in Scotland. It was not warm. It was however a fantastic experience and the next morning the Loch greeted us with picturesque views which provided the perfect background for Colours at 0800.
Finally, we made it to Inverness where we had our end of phase meal and a night of drinks and ceilidh music. It was the last deployment for many of our senior students and I think it was safe to say it was a good one.
Summer phase 2 kicked off in Liverpool and featured some smooth sailing down to Caernarfon, the home of one of the oldest castles in the UK. We were later joined by HMS Express – minus their students. Glasgow and Strathclyde had the honour of being part of the annual Caernarfon Armed Forces Day.
We had the honour of hosting a cocktail party for the highflying folk of the Armed Forces Day Committee and after a few drinks and some pleasantries the day was over. The next task was marching.
Now you may think that walking at a set pace in full 1s isn’t that trying, but remember that 1s are 100% wool. That coupled with the 24° heat it did not make a pleasant experience and, because we were located in the heart of Welsh-speaking Wales, the sermon was given in both Welsh and English. The heat and long service saw many sea cadets and scouts collapse however we pushed on. The reward at the end of such a sweltering day was a cool drink and a free meal at the local pub.
Now because this was a deployment and the fact that the crew and students had pretty much visited every pub in Caernarfon the Boss decided to have a wee jaunt up to Holyhead some 25 kilometres as the bird flies. The weather however didn’t think we needed to leave. Undeterred we plunged on, quite literally, bracing ourselves as we left the safe waters of Caernarfon and headed out to the ‘slightly rough’ sea. Half an hour later we were only a fifth of the way there. Later as we rounded South Stack the swell began to hit us beam on. It was at this point that Chief Rutherford made an appearance. Looking worried, he swiftly kicked Midshipman Wragg off the prized Enclosed Bridge Helm seat. All students were either bracing themselves in the enclosed bridge or were actually too ill to vomit up on the flying bridge.
It was at this point that nature decided we were having it too easy. The ship leaned over to the starboard side. So much so that the boss and the students on the upper bridge were close to having a bath. Thankfully we were nearing the end. We altered course so that the swell was now behind us. This did not help matters much but it did give us a boost, much like Mario’s race-cart running over a speed boost, and soon we entered the safety of Holyhead.
The Boss, now happy that we had gone somewhere, decided that we would return to Caernarfon. Thankfully the ride back to Caernarfon was much smoother than the previous voyage. One last run ashore saw Caernarfon off and gave birth to the Weatherspoon’s Challenge (The victors? – the boys). Next stop Whitehaven where we would depart and welcome the oncoming phase.
Phase 1 of summer 2017 may go down as one of the shortest phases in URNU history but this is G&S URNU so it was far from uneventful. For some (OCdts Jones and Booth) it was their first deployment and others their last (Mid Ward). Mid Whiteside claimed it was absolutely, 100%, her last time on ship… we paid no attention as all knew that wasn’t true.
The deployment began shrouded in secrecy with the Coxswain refusing to tell us where we were crewing up and even changing the meeting location but eventually we all gathered at the unit and drove to the ship in Largs - it was really that simple.
Eventually all students were on board and of course we got stuck into some chart work… or at least planning ahead for our deployment. Naturally we were excited as the long-cast included a festival, boat show and the TT race on the Isle of Man. However this was weather and CO dependent... in the end we did none of these things. This was the CO’s first deployment with students on board Pursuer. Lt Parson was unsure what to expect, but naturally we broke him in, or maybe just broke him.
Despite some rather high sea state numbers we did manage a fair amount of time at sea. Our first transit was from Largs to Troon, this took roughly 4 hrs - we could have driven it in 1. Following this we crossed the sea to Portrush, had a good night out and then sailed on to Bangor (Northern Ireland not Wales).
We made the most of our time there, turned into proper tourists and checked out the giants causeway and tested the well held belief that Portrush is a good night out. I can confirm it is indeed.
Next we planned to stop by the Isle of Man before heading down to Wales. Unfortunately, we weren’t welcome in Douglas and given the size of the waves and the size of Pursuer we didn’t think we’d make it to Wales so instead we headed for the safe port of Liverpool. There were no complaints as we all had fond memories of Liverpool.
The transit across was a different story; there were many complaints. Our Navs, OCdt (now Mid) Kieran Smith, had honourably pulled an all-nighter to get the chart work done but given the conditions it was a bit of a waste as not even Lt Botfield could get a fix on. As a nurse OCdt Kirstie Jones decided to give us multiple demonstrations of the effects of sea sickness and being SMID I gave an excellent demonstration on how to vomit over the side of the ship.
Once in Liverpool it was clear this was our last port. As the youngest it was Kieran Smith’s job to plan our end of phase meal and get a speech together. His speech wasn’t half bad and from what we can remember it was a good night. Apparently there is a Popworld in Liverpool.
After a couple of days alongside we and ships company agreed we had all done more than enough PLTs and spent far too much money so we could head home early. This of course didn’t stop our TO from maximising training time with debriefs conducted on the train home.
Maybe it was because we weren’t on board long enough to go stir crazy but this phase was definitely one of the most enjoyable I’ve had, although it was really just a warm up for phase 2…
Mid Richard Cornforth
Sunday the 13th of November 2016 marked the annual day of remembrance and commemoration for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure and protect our freedom and as always GSURNU played its part. Mustering at the unit unnecessarily early, as always, kitted out in full no. 1s, shoes bulled, poppies pined and not a lose thread in sight the students represented the unit with pride and distinction. The day followed the usual structure of some parade followed by a march to the chapel for a service and march back to the unit for a more relaxed lunch with family and friends. Despite their lack of practice all first years conducted themselves well, with impressive marching, thanks in no small part to the excellent tutelage from Lt. Botfield. All in all Remembrance Sunday was a success and the main aim of paying our respects was achieved.
- Mid Richard Cornforth
Trafalgar night is always one of the highlights of the URNU calendar and 2016 was no exception. The evening began with a drinks reception in the bar, where VIP and student guests were welcomed to the occasion. Once everyone had arrived we were seated in the drill hall, the walls of which were decorated with White Ensigns and signal flag bunting. It was to my bitter disappointment that not even Lt. Botfield knew the signal flags well enough to decode the carefully constructed messages: GS RN 4 LYF and Trafalgar 1805… We were served a delicious meal and the interludes between courses were filled with entertaining sketches of the battle brought to us by the talented Mid Wragg and O/Cdts Bonham, MacKenzie and Clark. These re-enactments remind us the reason for the dinner and why the Battle of Trafalgar is still commemorated today, 211 years on. O/Cdt Bonham played an excellent Lord Nelson as he took on the Franco-Spanish fleet of 41 ships with a British strength of 33 vessels. Despite this, and through use of unorthodox naval tactics, Nelson and the fleet secured one of the most decisive victories in Royal Navy history, losing not a single ship compared to the enemy’s 22. This reasserted Britain’s supremacy of the seas and prevented the French from ever challenging the Royal Navy to battle again. During the conflict, Nelson was shot by a French sniper and died of his wounds shortly afterwards on-board HMS Victory. He never lived to see the British victorious. After the sketches we were treated with a few dances from the OTC highland dancers before our guest speaker, Brigadier Ian Gardiner, spoke to us of leadership, his time as a serving Royal Marine and the Dhofar War. Mess fines were dished out and we attempted to tunefully sing the usual sea shanties as a conclusion to the dinner. The tables were then cleared and everyone threw themselves into the ceilidh dancing, with live Scottish Country Dance music from the band. Drinks were drunk, mess games got messy and I’m sure there were a lot of sore heads the following morning! I would like to thank Mid Anna Aitken, who took on the role of formal socials not long before the dinner and also our SMid Kerrie Walker, for working hard to produce such a fantastic and unforgettable evening. I will remember the event merrily as my last Trafalgar Night as a member of G&S URNU.
Mid Iona Urquhart
At the end January we had our first opportunity to go on ship since the New Year, and for most first years our first opportunity to get on board and sail. So we all arrived outside the Riverside museum bright and early on the Sunday morning. More or less ready for the day, as some of us had been out the night before so were feeling a little worse for wear. Luckily however the water was calm and we were soon sailing down the Clyde towards Faslane. As a first year I looked on baffled as everyone busied themselves getting ready to depart and soon Triona Whiteside was in full control as SMid. The first years spent the first part of the day on a lesson about buoys but once we got to Greenock the RNLI joined us for some lifesaving practice which was great fun. The ships company had a practice with the MORS stretcher and we took turns doing perry buoy manoeuvres which for some of us was our first time driving the ship. The day ended with us docking the ship in Faslane and catching the train home. All in all it was a great experience and I’m looking forward to the next sea weekend.
O/Cdt Mairi Watt-Cooper