The Royal Naval Sports Fund Lottery

My story starts with the Commanding Officer of HMS Mercury, Captain Gerald PLUMER Royal Navy,  encouraging all in HMS Mercury to submit ideas for the forthcoming meeting of the Establishment's LOCAL AWARD COMMITTEE OF THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE SUGGESTION SCHEME due on the 1st October 1981.

I responded by submitting three suggestions for the Committee to ponder over, a Committee I may add with many enquiring and shrewd minds, so, no matter who submitted the suggestions or the topic covered,  they were guaranteed a good and fair hearing.  I believe I got exactly that and was pleased with the outcome.

For the most part I will tell this story with original documents all of which are relevant and self explanatory. Some of the story I can't corroborate for it occurred in the privacy of the Captains Office in the Establishment Administration block in late 1981, now some thirty nine long years ago when I was appointed as his Standing Officer of the Watch,  but I will say that it covered two points of some interest. The first being that Captain Plumer told me that I had been recommended to receive the high honour of a Member of the Victorian Order for my services as the leader of the coffin bearers at the Royal Ceremonial funeral for Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten recommended by the Commander, Commander D.W. Pike at one time an officer in the Royal Yacht Britannia, himself a holder of the honour, which had been politely refused by the Head of Naval Ceremonial in Whale Island, because they was no precedent at such an event, but there was for people in my position at a State Funeral.  The refusal was much regretted but considered worthy by several people in high positions.  Secondly that I was subsequently recommended for the MBE, not because it was an honour not requiring a precedent [second bite of the cherry as he said after the higher honour of the MVO], but simply because he was limited as to the numbers he could recommend to Flag Officer Portsmouth for the award of the honour. However, two very long serving officers currently serving in Mercury with outstanding meritorious service were Mercury's choice on this occasion: and both officers duly received this honour. He told me not to be too downhearted as there would be other opportunities.  For perfectly obvious reason which I more than most understood, the next lists submitted by various senior officers including the C-in-C at the time of the Falklands War Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse thereafter to become Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fieldhouse of Gosport were awarded to men who had served during that war and fully justified. There were no sour grapes at any stage until I suppose much later in September of 1997 sixteen years after my time, when even the chauffeur of the hearse taking Princess Diana's coffin from Westminster Abbey to Althrop House in distant Northampton for her burial was awarded the MBE!

It had been discussed that HMS Mercury's involvement in a Royal Ceremonial funeral was unique and should be recorded as such for posterity. It was unique for several reasons, the chief ones being that it was a first in our nations history that a murdered member of the Royal Family, murdered by enemy agents, was carried into Westminster Abbey for his funeral ceremony - that by a naval party instead of the traditional Household Regiments barracked in London at the time of the event - and it supplied by ratings from the erstwhile naval signal school based in HMS Mercury at Leydene, East Meon. It was and remains the third largest UK funeral in the second half of the  20th century  after the two full State funerals of King George VI in 1952 and Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

Finally in Captain Plumers office, whilst referring to the camp's MOD suggestions scheme he asked me to be kind to others and leave some money for them. He noted my record of MOD invention prizes and Herbert Lott efficiency awards, which on leaving the service with a final cheque due for an invention of 1500 plus 200 from the H.L. fund totalled in all, pennies short of 2500.00 the most ever paid to a naval communicator.

 Mind you the prizes for inventions could take for ever and ever and these three letters [followed by the Captain of Mercury's letter of congratulation] took just three years from invention to pay out. I received this amount of money shortly after I had left the Service.


Now for the reason for penning this page! These supporting pages are in date order leading to the NOT INVENTED HERE and a snub felt by the SMOPS CO's of HMS Mercury, HMS Dryad, HMS Excellent, HMS Vernon starting with a letter to me from Captain Plumer R.N.

What follows are various letters telling the story of how I proposed the VSS [Voluntary Sports Subscription] into a changed state which would lead to paying a lottery prize as well as fulfilling its prime and intended reason for purchasing sports equipment and messdeck board games, whilst encouraging everybody to take on board the necessity of keeping fit and healthy.  The lottery suggestion was intended to recruit more personnel to elevate the principle of "voluntary", so that all people benefitted. As you will read, it was turned down when two officers decided to take it upon themselves to veto the suggestion, which were the Commodore of HMS Centurion and the Captain in charge of Naval Physical Training, without first testing the waters pan-navy or referring it upward for MOD to decide. This decision flew in the face of each and every SMOPS Establishment Commanding Officer with many thousands of naval personnel under their command which were Excellent, Vernon, Dryad and Mercury, all of them trawled to seek their opinions by Captain Plumer Royal Navy commanding the Signal School, which in every case was positive and supported. The two dissenting officers by comparison commanded very few naval personnel.

Just a few years later, guess what, a Royal Naval Sports Lottery was launched and thrives today as an important feature of naval life. Personnel changes at the top notwithstanding, a classic NOT INVENTED HERE by dog-in-manger naval officers, not yet trained to think laterally, stuck in the doldrums of logical thinking!

I am proud that back then I had acquired the lateral thinking approach mixed in with logical, and could see an obvious betterment of an excellent but staid system, going nowhere because of a couple of set-in-their-ways officer!

Now for the documents kept by me all these many years, as a reminder of one of the less pleasing part of my career, which by and large was a wonderful experience.

By the way I have copied the Navy News article on this subject just in case the producers decided to pull the on-line magazine still showing today on-line all these many moons later: I am flattered that they have me down as a FRCS [Fellow Royal College of Surgeons] instead of a humble FCRS.

The ISSUU company who provide on-line newspaper and magazine searching facilities online including the Navy News out of many, still showing the Navy News of AUGUST1982 on line.  Try a modern browser to key in 'ISSUU Navy News August 1982' and then click.  Scroll down and look for the URL 198208. Click on it and use the right arrow to turn the pages. On page 7 you will see "Let's have a Lottery" 


Note. Following page retyped from original which was smudged in the Gestetner process

Please take note all you club swinger types, The Royal Naval Sports Lottery was invented in HMS Mercury and NOT in HMS Temeraire in 1981 as per the Captain of the Signal School's letter below.

Below is the HIGHLY PERVERSE letter from the NOT INVENTED HERE clan!

That's the end of my story, and on being snubbed, that's Captain Gerald Plumer Royal Navy and myself, I was invited back to the Captains private office for yet another 'putting the world to right' conversation. He was as upset as I was.

Not long afterwards, date not known, the Royal Naval Sports Lottery appeared! In pirates language SHEER and unadulterated  SKULLDUGGERY?  AMEN.