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23 | 05 | 2017
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Royal Navy

SAC Scouts and the Royal Navy

The College Scouts have always had strong links with the Royal Navy.

Soon after the Second World War the light fleet carrier HMS Triumph acted as patron ship of the College Group and in 1949 boy seamen from the carrier taught the cast of the College production of “HMS Pinafore” to dance the hornpipe. The College Rover Crew and the Gunroom of Triumph frequently organised joint dances and other activities and the Scouts were often at sea in the carrier to watch flying operations off Malta.

In July 1952 a party of 20 Scouts sailed in the frigate HMS Roebuck for Venice from where the boys continued their journey to London to stay with English families in the Heathrow area.

The boys read in the London newspapers of the sinking off St. Julian’s, in thick fog, of the Syracuse-Malta ferry “Star of Malta” in which they were due to return home. The Admiralty in London offered to send the training cruiser HMS Cumberland to Leghorn to pick up the Scouts.

In the summer of 1959 the Scouts were taken to Cannes in the South of France in the cruiser HMS Birmingham and after trekking south to Messina the boys rejoined the cruiser, which was on a visit there, for their return to Malta .

A memorable trip was made in 1960 in the frigate HMS Eastbourne, then newly commissioned. The Scouts sailed for Anzio and spent a week camping in the forest outside Rome from where they were able to visit and watch the Olympic Games. They later joined Eastbourne at the port of Nettuno for the return trip.

In 1961 the College Scouts were the first overseas Scouts to stay at Baden Powell House, which had just been opened by Her Majesty the Queen as a hostel in London . On their return trip the College boys joined the Daring Class destroyer HMS Duchess of Rapallo for the voyage back to Malta .

These various trips in warships of the Royal Navy led to the College Scouts establishing strong links with the officer cadets of Britannia Naval College , Dartmouth . Captain R.S. Forrest (of Triumph connections) was at one time Captain of the Dartmouth Training Squadron.

When Captain O.N.A. Cecil (later Rear Admiral Sir Nigel Cecil, the last Commander of the British Forces in Malta ) took over as Captain, the links with the Squadron became closer and the Scouts started joining the Squadron for a fortnight’s training cruise at sea.

In March 1970 the College Scouts embarked in HMS Tenby, Torquay and Scarborough for combined exercises between the Squadron and the Italian Navy and they later visited Messina in the three warships. Here they presented the Mayor of Montevago, a town devastated by the severe earthquake which had hit western Sicily, with boxes of toys for the village children and a sum of money which they had collected.

The College Scouts were again at sea in the Squadron months later, this time in the frigates Eastbourne and Scarborough, calling at Leghorn . From here the boys were able to visit the nearby cities of Pisa and Florence.

Capt W.D. Graham took over from Capt Cecil in July 1970. The Scouts were able to organise a  sightseeing tour of Malta for the Cadets during their visit to the island in October, as well as dances and other receptions, besides day picnics with families. The Scouts in turn joined the warships for anchorage and boat training off Malta .

The Dartmouth Training Squadron visited Malta in November 1971 and the Scouts and their families were entertained to tea on board Eastbourne and Tenby and they in turn entertained the cadets and officers to a reception at the College.

The first warship to call in Grand Harbour in March after the signing of the Anglo-Maltese Treaty was HMS London when Capt. Forrest invited the Scouts to spend a day at sea during exercises off Sicily . This was in a gale and most of the boys were somewhat the worse for wear but it provided a happy occasion as it was announced during the trip that Captain Forrest had been promoted to Rear Admiral.

The Dartmouth Training Squadron was disbanded in August 1972 and the Squadron’s duties were taken over by the assault ship HMS Intrepid which later visited Malta in September. Her Captain, Capt. J.F.Kidd, wrote to the College Scout Leader “I will be delighted if we can continue the tradition of friendship that has been established between yourself and the previous squadrons.”

When Intrepid was in Malta , the Scouts played hosts to the new midshipmen training ship and Capt. Kidd and the officers and midshipmen, as well as the Deep Sea Scouts in the ship, were able to attend the ceremony of presentation of a Mirror dinghy to the Seahorse Sailing Club of the College Group by the Friends of Malta GC. Intrepid visited Malta again in the spring of 1973. Her sister-ship HMS Fearless took over the role of training ship later in the year and visited Malta in the summer of 1974. She was back in Malta on other training cruises and in 1976 the College Scouts joined the cadets for an expedition across Malta.

In 1977 the new Captain of Fearless, Capt. R.S.S. Thomas, took the Scouts to sea for two days of training with the Cadets. He presented the College Scouts with a silver shield which was competed for annually in November, until 2006, by the patrols on a two-day expedition in Gozo.

The association continued at regular intervals up to 1979 when the last of the British Forces left Malta. Admiral Cecil was given a warm farewell at a campfire at the College shortly before the last warship on the station, HMS London, left Grand Harbour , in an emotional departure on April 1, 1979. During the campfire, Admiral Cecil referred to the College Group as the “Admiral’s Own”. He recalled his long and happy association, including the various training cruises the College Scouts had participated in while he was Captain of the Dartmouth Training Squadron. He presented the last White Ensign to be flown from his barge to the Group.

Although no British warships were allowed to visit Malta between 1979 and 1986, the link between the College Scouts and the Royal Navy was maintained by correspondence.

When the frigate HMS Brazen paid a memorable visit to Malta in August 1986 – the first Royal Navy warship to enter Grand Harbour after the British departure in 1979 – the College Scouts were embarked in the warship for a short trip to Gozo. They again took passage to Gozo in HMS Broadsword when the frigate spent a week in Malta in August 1987.

Early in 1987 the light cruiser HMS Bristol took on the role of training ship and plans were made for the Dartmouth Training Squadron, which had just been revived as such, to pay a short visit to the Island in November especially to renew, at close quarters, the links that have for decades bound the Royal Navy and the St.Aloysius College Scout Group.

In 1998 a small group of Scouts travelled to Gibraltar via London to join the Type 42 destroyer HMS Nottingham on a five day voyage to Malta , where they participated in the activities of the ship as members of the crew.

HMS Intrepid was withdrawn from service in 1999 after 32 years and HMS Fearless in 2002 after 37 years.

The new amphibious assault ship HMS Bulwark became patron ship soon after she entered service and a representative group of our Scouts attended the commissioning ceremony of the 18,400 tonnes warship at Plymouth on April 25, 2005.

The ship visited Malta in February 2009 while leading a task force to the Far East . The Scouts and their families were able to visit the ship for a day. A contingent of 12 of our Scouts flew to the UK at the end of February 2010 and joined the ship for three days at sea sailing from Newcastle to Plymouth . The warship then entered dry-dock for a major refit which will extend into early 2011.

The patrols have in recent years been competing for the Bulwark Shield presented to replace the Fearless Shield.