Visit to Dartmouth for
Royal Navy 50 year reunion

12-14 September 2008

by Tony Copple, Lieut. Commander (retired!)

On 14 September 1958 I first saw the view above - with fewer boats - on my arrival at Dartmouth as a Royal Navy cadet. Britannia Royal Naval College dominates the skyline, our destination. Yes, there are palm trees along the front in the picturesque town on the mouth of the Dart. Admiral Sir Robert Walmsley (right) is one of the 55 retired officers plus wives and two widows whom I joined for this historic nostalgia. Some of us stayed in the Dartmouth Golf and Country Club and dined there the Friday night (photo below) after a cocktail party and distribution of "50 Years On" a great book of biographies and documents from then. See my page in "50 Years on."     Videos

As I came down from Paddington I confess to some nervousness about the encounters with men few of whom I had seen in 49 years after the year here and in the Dartmouth squadron. But it was if those years had shrunk away. Voices, mannerisms, body language seemed exactly as my memories of them. Most seemed very fit for their 67 / 68 years.

The quarterdeck (above) was a focal part of life in the college. The Anglican chapel is one of several places of worship, including a mosque. During our conducted tour of the college on this visit, I suspect many learned more about it than we had ever known while there, including the fact that the architect Sir George Aston Webb was significantly miffed when not selected to design the add-on building to rear, which is far less impressive. The parade ground (below) was where we learned to drill, sometimes before dawn.

One very pleasant aspect of the reunion was the presence of many wives, all looking even better than their husbands and seemingly none the worse for the Naval lifestyle. Reading about family, children and grandchildren in "50 Years On" is to me even more poignant than the often illustrious Royal Navy careers. I wonder if our time at Dartmouth knocked us into shape as adults more than we may have hitherto acknowledged. I personally have very fond memories, and found it liberating after public school.


The train (from Paignton) is still running but as a private venture          Cream tea at Dittisham (Dit'sum)

The mouth of the Dart, near Dartmouth Castle


Saturday night - an excellent mess dinner in the BRNC wardroom


Main speaker, Admiral Rob Walmsley, with memories for us all


After dinner entertainment from Mikes Clarke and Sant - "Thanks for the Memory" and "Let's Do It," with subtle modifications to the words as befitting and describing present company.

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    Britannia Royal Naval College
    50 Years On        55 Years On, 2013
    Tony's home page