Branch Committee Pen Pages Continued....

Karen Elliot BEM - Social Secretary


Karen Elliot BEM, age 32 😊 (my birthday is the 25th June, so I have ‘half a Christmas’ each year and stopped having birthdays some time ago 😊!)

I am honoured to have served in the Wrens from July 1984 to April 1989 as an RP (radar plotter) – right decision to leave at the time, but always felt I left too early, and that’s why I love being involved in various Service-related activities now (putting a wee bit back for the excellent grounding I received in the Wrens), including:

  • Royal Naval Association (‘RNA’) City of Edinburgh Branch Social Secretary;
  • RNA Scottish Area Secretary;
  • Association of Wrens and Women of the Royal Naval Services (‘AOW’) National Trustee and Chairman of the AOW Edinburgh & District Branch;
  • Royal British Legion Scotland Livingston (‘RBLS’) Branch Social Secretary;
  • West Lothian Armed Forces Day Founder, Secretary & Treasurer; and
  • Naval Veterans’ Representative on the Naval Regional Forum, Cross Party Armed Forces & Veterans Group, and Edinburgh & East of Scotland Veterans Group.

I’m a wife, mother of 2 girls, Nan of 2 (girl: 7 and boy: 6), and I work full-time (condensed into 3 days per week) as a Business Compliance & Contracts Manager for a private Fife-based firm, Singula Decisions Limited, and am also the Treasurer and a Congregational Board Member of my Church, West Kirk of Calder. 

I was deeply humbled and honoured to have been recognised in the New Year Honour’s 2021, having been nominated by the RNA, my citation reads:

"Karen Elliot. Secretary, Scottish Area, Royal Naval Association and Social Secretary, City of Edinburgh Branch, Chair, Association of Wrens and Women of the Royal Naval Services Edinburgh and District Branch. For voluntary service to Royal Navy Veterans. (Livingston, West Lothian)".  What an honour!

Life is crazy busy, but generally, I love what I do and do what I love – a very fortunate position to be in 😊

Once a Jenny Always a Jenny!

Cheers

Karen

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Public Relations Officer - Shipmate Natalie Cutler


I joined the Wrens in 1977 at the age of 17½. I was in part 2 training as a Radio Operator at HMS Mercury during the Queens Silver Jubilee and I  was too young for a tot of rum when they announced Splice the Mainbrace so I was entitled to a pint of lime juice…sad but true! 

I served at HMS Warrior (Northwood) working for NILO

(National Intelligence Liaison Officer). This is where I meet a smooth talking sailor who later persuaded me to marry him! From there I was drafted to HMS Gannet 819 squadron and then onto AMTE( Admiralty Marine Technology Establishment)  Teddington. While based here I married the aforementioned sailor and promptly fell pregnant leaving the Wrens in 1981 to have our eldest son Michael. I then became a “stay at home Mum” for the next 10 years adding another two sons Richard & Stuart to our family. Clearly bringing up 3 boys  mostly on my own while Dave carried on serving wasn’t enough so I undertook a series of voluntary roles. While married accompanied in Hong Kong I taught English in a local kindergarten, while living in Portsmouth I was a fundraiser and volunteer with the RNLI, then returning to Scotland I became involved with Guide Dogs for the Blind and later I was a Producer and Presenter with Hospital Radio at St. John’s Livingston for a number of years.

When I eventually returned to work I was a senior manager at Sky TV for 14 years, I have also worked with a Telecoms maintenance company and most recently with the Lothian Armed Forces and Veterans Project.

 Still keen on volunteering where and when I can I am an active campaigner and fundraiser for CRY – Cardiac Risk in the Young, a Trustee on the Board of Lothian Veterans Centre as well as being actively involved with the Edinburgh Branch of Royal Naval Association, Edinburgh and District Branch of the Association of Wrens and the Livingston Branch of Legion Scotland.  

Branch Standard Bearer - Shipmate David Cutler


Served from January 1968 to April 1992

 

I've been asked many times "why did I join up?" As with many of us I've often replied "It was a good idea at the time.”

 

I’ve always believed in the adage "don’t talk about yourself ‘cos nobody else is interested" but….

 

In the late 1950’s, my Dad was an Engineer in the Aircraft Industry and was moved into the conglomerate that formed the British Aircraft Corporation in 1960.  He was on the team producing the TSR2, a low-level supersonic strike and reconnaissance aircraft. The project was scrapped by the government of the day in April 1965. All technical drawings were burnt and manufacturing tools were placed on the Hard standings and destroyed to ensure the project could never be resurrected. The flying aircraft were dismantled and used for target practice at Shoebury Ness. It was the last military aircraft to be solely produced by the UK.

 

 Just days later hundreds of Engineers and Aeronautical Scientists were given an offer to work on the Apollo Programme in the USA and so started the Brain Drain to the USA of the 1960’s. Off Dad went to California.  He was soon offered a permanency with the Space Project along with a US Citizenship for all of the family and resettlement in the USA. The decision to move to California and work on Apollo was made and Dad eventually moved onto the space shuttle programme too.

 

I was just 15 in 1967 when all of these decisions were being made. The UK and USA were deeply entrenched in the cold war. Vietnam had kicked off 12 years earlier and by 1965 the Americans were well into Operation Rolling Thunder the bombing of North Vietnam with 500,000 troops on the ground and increasing with an average age (according to the movies) of just 19.  I opted not to go to the USA, that’s why I joined the Royal Navy.

 

In January 1968 I walked through the gates of HMS St Vincent at the age of 15. Six weeks later I was in the back of a pussers tilly on my way to Collingrad, having been voluntold to become a Radio Electrical Mechanic, that took care of 1968.   And in Feb of 69 I joined the Hampshire for a year followed by Norfolk shortly after her commissioning in 1970. I picked up my hook at the age of 19 onboard Norfolk and once again ended up in Collingwood to do Killicks course and then as ships company, organising passports in the Reg Office.

 

I joined the Sheffield at Barrow, still being built in 74. And stayed on for her first commish and applied to branch change to the Photographic Branch, joining RAF Cosford in 1976.

  

First draft as a phot was Portland for a year, that was busy with the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review and Gunnery shoots. I then joined C in C Fleet Staff at Northwood for the first time.

 

Early in 79 I received a phone call from Drafty at Centurion, Sea Time was calling. I was given a choice of 3 ships and on investigation, after all being on C in C fleet staff had some perks, it was noted that HMS Herald was long casted as W.I. for two years. I joined her in July 79 in refit at Southampton shortly after her return from the Gulf. She had picked up about 60 British and American dependents from the port of Bandar Abbas in the wake of the Iranian Revolution with her sister ship Hydra and the inshore survey ships Fox and Fawn.

 

Shortly after joining Herald, the Skipper cleared lower deck and announced that we were heading out on a

2-year deployment to survey the waters of the Western Isles of Scotland. So much for the West Indies. Deflated wouldn’t be the word I used at the time.

 

On Summer leave in 1980,  in the words of our own Shep Wooley……

 I married my Jenny Wren Bride. The love of my life who I had met at Northwood. 2 Years later I re-joined

C in C Fleet HQ at Northwood. I was working away in Gib, when the Falklands kicked off, as the phot covering Spring Train but was flown back to HQ before heading out to Hong Kong, Married Accompanied.

 

We (a team of 5) flew out from Tamar via crab air Wessex on a week-about watch on the small Island of

Tai-O on the Pearl River. This was without doubt one of the very best drafts in the Navy.  Just 4 Matelots,

1x LEP chef, a local who looked after the gardens and 8 snake dogs, mostly named after characters in Mash.

 

As a branch, phots are known for taking shots of Ships at sea and Local Boy Stories for the folks back home.

But, on our return to the UK, I was based at Pitreavie Castle on the staff of FOSNI, when I was summoned to the bosses office to “Discuss my next draft”

 

I was interviewed as a prospective to join the SB Squadron Maritime Counter Terrorist unit. The seventies had seen a dramatic rise in terrorism throughout the world with politically motivated attacks in the Middle East and Europe. In 1975 Britain resolved to be ready to react to and prevent any acts of terrorism against its interests. The SBS were given the maritime counter terrorism role, with responsibility for protecting sea ports, ferries, cruise ships and oil and gas platforms.

 

But….  I had to volunteer to take the course that would enable me to jump out of perfectly serviceable aircraft.

 

I Joined Comacchio Group RM at Arbroath in December 1985. The very first piece of kit I was issued with was a pager that stayed with me at all times for four years. Comacchio Group had 2 very distinct fields of operations. One was responsible for the Security of the UK's Naval nuclear weapons in transit and Faslane and Coulport Bases and the unit that I joined, The Counter-Terrorism unit for offshore installations, including oil rigs and ships with 300 Royal Marines and 1 SBS.  I was one of two Photographers in the Maritime Technical Support Cell. The increase in manpower continued with the amalgamation of 2 SBS Sections to over 400 and from 1987 onwards, Comacchio Group ceased performing the Counter-Terrorism role. This, was transferred to the newly formed M-squadron of The Special Boat Service at its HQ in Poole, and was taken under the  control of UK Special Forces, comprising the SBS, SAS and 14 Intelligence Company. All 3 services came under the control of the Directorate of Special Forces.

 

After my 4 years with the Royals,  I went back to yet another different life in a blue suit …..  wearing a pin stripe suit at MOD Whitehall. I did get a 6-week trip out to the Gulf to film the fires of Kuwait and destruction left behind as Gaddafi left to go home to Libya, once again into Lovat Green. But MOD Whitehall was my last draft, from where I finished my time in April 1992. Would I do it again?  Absoblooddyutely.

 

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