Branch Chairman, Branch Area Delegate and Scottish National Council Member - Shipmate Stephen Elliot
Stephen Elliot FRSA
Stephen joined the Royal Navy in June 1983 and joined the fleet as a Radio Operator (Tactical) in February 1984 when he was drafted to HMS Cardiff, he later served at MHQ Pitreavie, HMS Birmingham (refit) and HMS York. Stephen was fortunate to travel the world and took part in two operational tours to the Persian Gulf as part of the Armilla Patrol.
On leaving the service in December 1988 he joined Lothian and Borders Police and worked in various specialised departments until promotion. Stephen held numerous promoted positions and as a Chief Inspector held the appointments of Strategic Partnerships Lead and Local Area Commander for West Lothian and National Lead (Scotland) for Community Engagement and Citizen Focus.
Since retiring from the police service in December 2015 Stephen has held senior positions in the third sector with the Royal British Legion Scotland and Columba 1400. During his tenure with the Legion his skills were used as part of the WW100 Scotland planning team and this allowed him to continue and enhance his relationship with the Royal Navy in Scotland, he successfully delivered the Battle of Arras Commemoration in 2017, the Islay 100 Commemoration in 2018, the National Armistice 100 Service in 2018 and the Iolaire 100 Commemoration in 2019. Stephen is currently the Support Services Manager with Veterans Housing Scotland.
Stephen is an active Trustee and volunteer with several charities including the Royal Naval Association. He resides in West Lothian, Scotland with his wife Karen (Former WRNS and Branch Social Secretary), their two daughters, two grandchildren and Oscar the dog. He enjoys travel, live music and people.
In 2019 Stephen was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in recognition of his work within the public and third sectors.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Vice Chairman - Shipmate Ian Irvin
Hi there, Ian Irvin, Vice Chairman.
I am an accountant by profession, entrepreneur by inclination, and, over the years, I have made, and lost, sizable sums of money progressing various business ventures, none of which I could have contemplated had it not been for the confidence instilled in me as a result of my brief service in the Royal Navy. I attended the Admiralty Interview Board in 1972 and, whilst I failed at that attempt to become an Officer in the Royal Navy, I was asked to try again but this was to no avail because I failed in my efforts to secure the necessary academic qualifications. I am dyslexic although, in those days, it was merely assumed that you were not very good at sitting exams, but either way I was unable, academically, to continue with the prospect of becoming an Officer and, as a result, I subsequently joined HMS Raleigh in 1974 as a young sailor. I specialised as a Radar Operator and I joined HMS Bulwark later that year as she came out of refit. I travelled extensively over the next couple of years to the West Indies and Mediterranean during which time I had the prospect of a second Admiralty Interview Board, the intention being that I would fly back from Malta to attend, but I had a vocal disagreement with the Commander and that was the end of that. I joined HMS Jupiter in 1976 as she came out of refit in Gibraltar and I served on that ship for a couple of years prior to leaving the Royal Navy in late 1977. I saw a job advertised for accountants in the Middle East earning huge amounts of money, and this led to me doing an HND in accounting at Napier College. I did not have sufficient academic qualifications to do the course, but 25% of the places were set aside for people who had been working for a few years, and who were invited to apply for the course on the basis of an interview, rather than their academic prowess, and that was how I started on the course. There were 94 students the year that I joined, of whom 8 of us went all the way through to become Chartered Accountants, half of whom, myself included, had started on the programme through interview rather than academic attainment. I have, over the years, worked in the profession , in industry, and in commerce before forming Ian Irvin & Co. in 1990. I have taken two companies from inception to a public listing on the London Stock Exchange, the first being an electronics company, which involved negotiating the transfer of intellectual property from California to Scotland, and the second being a casino project in Taiwan, which resulted in me spending a great deal of time in Las Vegas. I have been involved with various early stage companies, indeed that is still the case as I am currently looking at a start up in the wave energy sector. I am currently the Chairman of a small bank, as well as being Managing Director, and major shareholder, in a property development company in Vietnam (long story). I do not believe that I could have done these things had it not been for the experience and confidence gained during my ‘dogwatch’ of service in the Royal Navy indeed, aside from marrying my wife, Doreen, I often say that the best thing I ever did was to join the Royal Navy. I had something missing in my life a few years ago, and it was Doreen that suggested I should have a hobby that was nothing to do with business, family, or the Church, where I have also been active over the years, and this drew me to the Royal Naval Association. I have held the post of Standard Bearer for the Edinburgh Branch and also became our delegate to Scottish Area, the first such appointment that the branch had made for several years, and I also attended National Conference for the branch. I subsequently became the National Council Member, and Treasurer, for Scottish Area, and I have now become the National Treasurer responsible, alongside the National President, for signing off the accounts for the whole of the Royal Naval Association. My ‘corporate’ involvement with matters of finance, which I enjoy, has now got to the stage where I have decided to step down as National Council Member as I feel I have a growing conflict of interest.
There is something about being in uniform that is very hard to explain to anyone who has not been in uniform, and it is that certain something that I get from being part of the Royal Naval Association.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Honorary Secretary - Shipmate Bob Cumming
Hi My name is Robert Cumming, but referred to as Bob and I am your Branch Secretary. I joined the Royal Navy on 6th June 1972 as a Radio Operator, sub specialising as an Electronic Warfare rating. I joined my first ship on 14th May 1973 in Chatham, she was a gun Leander named HMS Phoebe and for you older members who will remember it we were the star of the TV Series ‘Warship’ which ran from 1973 – 1977. We played the part of HMS Hero. During my time on Phoebe, we took part in the 2nd Cod wars, exciting time that was and oh boy were we sick of ‘eating Fish’. My next seagoing draft after taking Phoebe into Devonport for her conversion to an Exocet Leander was the Tribal Class Frigate HMS Nubian. We had two excellent visits to the West Indies as the West Indies Guard Ship. During our first trip in 1975 we were the first British Warship to visit a place that nobody had heard of but today everyone knows of its existence, mainly for the wrong reasons. That place was Guantanamo Bay, the American Naval base in Cuba. Famously or infamously, we had another first, being the first British Warship to be kicked out of Guantanamo Bay after 24 hours due to the ships company fighting with the shore patrol and carrying out numerous Zulu warriors in the PX Club, no sense of humour our American friends. My next draft was to the Ikara Leander HMS Ajax. After that draft my sea going drafts took a bit of a hiccup, I was posted back to HMS Nubian followed by a draft to the Type 42 Destroyer HMS Glasgow. Before leaving the Navy, my last sea going draft was again to HMS Glasgow. I finally left the Andrew in June of 1988. My Naval career did not stop there however. Prior to leaving the RN I was posted to MHQ Pitreavie where I worked as an Exercise Administrator and PSI to the Reserve Unit HMS SCOTIA. Whilst there I was recruited into the Royal Naval Reserves working as a full time Administrator/PSI from the day after my discharge from the RN. In fact for a whole month whilst on terminal leave I had two active service numbers my RN and my RNR Number and more importantly drew two Petty Officers pay for a Month. In 1991 I left full time work as a Reservist to get a job out in the real world, I remained as a Naval Reservist however until 1998, when I retired from the Reserves having served as the Coxswain of the Unit prior to retiring. When I gave up being a full-time reservist, I found a job at the Edinburgh College of Art where I started employment as a Night Security Officer, which was to be a temporary Job until such time as something better came along. That never happened as I enjoyed working at the College and further education and I saw that as my new vocation in life. Over my 25 years with the college, I worked my way from Night Security, to Janitorial Staff and then finally ending up as the College Superintendent responsible for the day to day running and the Security of the College. I finally retired in 2006. Back in February of 1995 whist still a Reservist and working at the art college I saw an advert in the local paper looking for former Royal Naval personnel interested in reforming a Royal Naval Association in Edinburgh. In March of that year some 40-50 like-minded ex matelots/Jennies came forward and we held our inaugural meeting and the Branch was reformed on the 12th march. Since the Branch reformed, I have served on Branch Committee since its very start with the exception of a four-year break. I started off as a Committee Member until 1999 when I took on the role of Branch Chairman, a role I held for two years before stepping down to take over the role of Branch Secretary in 1991. I stood down and took a 4-year break in 2005 before once more taking on the role in 2009. This is a job that I enjoy doing it helps to keep my mind active and keeps me well occupied in my retirement years. I also run the Branch Newsletter and Website so if you have a story to tell, then tell it to me and I will put your name in lights, well in the newsletter and webpage at least. In 2018 I was made a life member of the Association by the Branch, an accolade that I am very honoured to hold.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Honorary Treasurer & 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.