I render my Annual Report for the Royal Navy Club of 1765 and 1785, my first as Chairman.
Like its predecessor, this has been another mixed year for the club. Despite best efforts, no dinners have been held. On the other hand the Club held a highly successful and inaugural online event to mark Founders’ Day, attended by a number of guests from the Admiralty Board, including guest speakers – the Secretary of State for Defence and the First Sea Lord. Membership has remained stable. FY 20/21 accounts passed audit without qualification. The value of the Club’s General Fund has seen a sizeable gain whilst the Surplus Fund reported a minor deficit. Our charitable objectives continue to be met: five memorialists are supported from the Surplus Fund, which has continued to receive annual donations from the General Fund. Looking ahead, there is an excellent dinner programme for 2022; all dinners are scheduled to be held in ships. The committee and trustees have met virtually, enabling proper governance of the Club’s policies, activities and finances. Finally, letters of condolence were sent to Her Majesty the Queen and our Patron, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, following the passing of His Royal Highness Admiral of the Fleet the Duke of Edinburgh.
Membership and Dinners
Membership is very slightly down year on year. It has been a difficult period for our normal recruiting networks, given the constraints on face-to-face time and the lack of dinners. This situation has eased. Committee members and appointers are now engaged in a catch-up exercise. I would ask members who are able to help in this. The committee regularly reviews membership composition – demographic, gender, geographic for example – and, in particular, is seeking to attract more eligible Lieutenant Commanders and females.
After very careful consideration, you will see that at this year’s AGM the committee is proposing to broaden the membership of the Club. Specifically, this is to include Executive Officers of those Offshore Patrol Vessels in which individuals are selected and appointed with the specific intent they will have extensive and prolonged periods in command on operations. These operations currently include deployments to some of the most sensitive areas of the world. This proposal reflects some transformative changes in the service’s modus operandi; has the committee’s unanimous support; and was strongly advocated by our vice-chairman, the Fleet Commander. This change maintains the Club’s unique identity and reflects the reality of the current Fleet’s operating pattern. More details are in the AGM calling notice.
Following agreement at last year’s AGM, Lt Cdr Joel Roberts MBE RN has joined the Committee as its first member of that rank.
The Committee regularly reviews dinner frequency, format and location. The current frequency is judged to be right; following feedback, dinners will commence a little earlier to allow more time to meet before sitting; and the locations of dinners are chosen to reflect the geographic disposition of membership. In that respect, the eventual cancellation of the 2020 Trafalgar night dinner in HMS DRAKE was a big loss, which will be redressed.
All dinners in this annual cycle were eventually cancelled due to COVID restrictions, despite the Committee’s and Secretary’s best efforts to find locations and formats which would enable events to continue in some form. There were some benefits: most notably the first online club event to celebrate Founders’ Day, at which the Secretary of State and First Sea Lord spoke and were able to take questions. One hundred and thirty members from all over the world attended. The evening attracted glowing feedback. And, although eventually cancelled, plans for a reception in HMNB Devonport – with a serving speaker and discussion period, to replace the Trafalgar night dinner – drew support. Both cases proved the potential for these sorts of events in future. More keenly than ever, therefore, this year’s Trafalgar night dinner in HMS NELSON is eagerly anticipated. The 2022 Dinner Card starts with Founders’ Day in HQS WELLINGTON; Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday will be celebrated onboard RY BRITANNIA; and Trafalgar Night will be held in HMS WARRIOR 1860. I hope you agree that this is a stellar programme.
The Club’s charitable status, broadened in 2006 to be gender-neutral, is predicated upon “the relief of distressed widows and widowers, orphan children, siblings and dependants of those who have been members of the Club but who have ceased to be so by death or resignation”.
The Club’s charitable objects have continued to be met in the last year. Five Memorialists, all widows of former Club members, have received financial support through the Surplus Fund. The General Fund maintained its annual contribution (£500) to the Surplus Fund. It is planned to do the same this year.
I re-emphasise that the Trustees have scope to support more deserving people; and that they will apply the definition of Dependants as broadly and positively as possible. I ask members to advise the Secretary if you are aware of any individual who may need, and qualify for, support.
Surplus and General Funds
The General and Surplus funds remain in good order. Each were audited without qualification at the end of the financial year in April. The former has made an unusually high surplus (£9,685) this year, reflecting the lack of subsidy for dinners. The Committee will consider how this is best disbursed. The health of the Surplus Fund, under the auspices of our Trustees, is dependent on the performance of its investment portfolio, managed by Quilter Cheviot. After the major downturn of 2019/20 which created our minor annual deficit of £1200, investment portfolio values are returning and investment income levels should follow.
The approved and signed Independent Examiner’s report on both Funds can be accessed through the Club’s website.
Our AGMs are not a legal requirement. Like my predecessors, I welcome the chance to present my annual report in person and take questions upon it. Our rules stipulate that the AGM should be held on the same day as our Trafalgar Night dinner. By force of circumstance, this takes place when many would be travelling or at work. The Committee are thus proposing a resolution this year that allows flexibility to hold an AGM at a time and date, and in a way, that reaches the most members. This could include video conferencing. It might also allow a guest speaker to join, in a format similar to the last Founders’ Day. Since a rule change requires agreement at the AGM first, this year’s AGM will take place as usual on the day of the Trafalgar dinner. Please see elsewhere in the Annual mailshot for details.
The Club has benefitted from recent legacies. They have enabled specific initiatives (such as the Club Prize) or improved the dining experience the committee are able to offer members. May I ask members to consider doing likewise?
This year’s Club Prize, for the best performing student at the Command Qualification 2 Board, is awarded to Lt Cdr Dan Briscoe RN. It is hoped to make the presentation at the Founders’ Night Dinner on 3 Feb 2022. Any earlier opportunity is precluded by his deployment programme.
And finally …..
At the end of a disrupted year, I would like to give my thanks to the Committee members, Trustees, and to the Secretary who have kept everything on a level keel, have sought opportunities to do things differently and have continued to drive the Club forward. In particular, my gratitude to the outgoing Vice-Chairman, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd CBE, for the major contribution he has made during his time in post.
Vice Admiral Sir Charles Montgomery KBE August 2021