2011 AGM – President’s Report

AGM 2010 – PRESIDENT’S REPORT

 

(VADM Ian Knox, AC RAN ret)

 

(First published in NOCN 82, 1 September 2010.)

 

I have pleasure in presenting my first report. It has been a busy and challenging year for your Committee and they have been a great support to me, particularly the Vice President and Secretary.

 

Committee

The Vice President, Secretary and Reiner Jessurun are not renominating for the Committee, so we are looking for three new committee members, and if you approve the changes to the rules later in the meeting we need four new members. Preferably we would like some of them younger than those of us you see here and also to have IT expertise. Please take the opportunity to volunteer to nominate for the committee when we get to Agenda Item 5.

 

On your behalf, I wish to acknowledge the excellent work, over a very long period, of John Da Costa and Fred Lane. Fred has been exceptional with his heavy workload. The quality of the Newsletter, the construction and development of the website, the running of the membership and the Sydney functions, are all testimony to his drive and diligence. His wife, Gerry, has been a great help to him.

 

Constitutional review

Over the past year John Da Costa, John Smith and John Hazell ran the Club’s Constitutional Review marathon. John Ellis looked after our finances. Reinier Jessurun (retiring after nine years) gave outstanding backup when the Secretary or Treasurer was absent. Ron Robb managed the time-consuming and difficult task of Minutes Secretary and Paul Martin and his Naval Historical Society crew helped us stuff newsletters and provided excellent committee meeting facilities. John Hazell oversaw our Reserve Entry Officers Course (REOC) liaison and initiated a business plan for the Club. Along with Paul Martin and Ron Robb, John Hazell also helped out with secretarial duties when Fred Lane was absent overseas from late April until early June. Although not a member of the Committee, David Blazey was our Honorary Auditor for the last five years and did an excellent job. He is not seeking re-appointment this year so that he can nominate for the Committee.

 

Transition team

Because of Fred’s impending departure, a couple of months ago I set up a Transition Team, comprised of all Committee members under the leadership of Ralph Derbidge, (the next Vice President, subject to a decision to be taken later in the meeting) to propose a way ahead. In the short
term, interim  (acting) responsibilities are:

 

Hon. Sec.:  John Smith

Agenda, Minutes: Ron Robb

Membership: David Blazey

Functions A: Paul Martin (Lunches and Trafalgar Dinner)

Functions B: John Hazell (Penguin BBQs)

Functions C: Ralph Derbidge (Parliament House Lunch)

Newsletter Editor: tbd.

Webmaster: tbd.

 

Existing responsibilities to be continued included:

 

Hon. Treas.: John Ellis

REOC Coord.: John Hazell

Public Officer: John Smith

 

Newsletter and website

The Newsletter and website are important. They are the only contacts with the Club for about 80 per cent of our members. The driver and the main mover is your Secretary, Fred, but I wish to thank many individuals, including Kevin Rickard for his regular book reviews, Stephen Dearnley and Gerry Lane for regular heavy duty proofreading, ably backed up by Derek White and Gray Connelly. Thanks also to Ralph Derbidge and Bill Vallack for many lighter moments inside the back cover. Regular contributors, like John Ellis and Mike Downes, give the Newsletter essential variety. Please keep the articles coming, especially those with non-aviation flavour.

 

Helper volunteers

I’ve already mentioned the need for more Committee members but we need other volunteers (who need not be Committee members) for:

 

Website design and maintenance (presently Joomla-based; if you understand that we need you!).Newsletter: 1.Columns (e.g. promotions, awards, etc.); 2. Editorials (e.g. Navy changes, pensions, etc.); 3. Proofreaders, and 4. Newsletter stuffing (four times a year, usually on a Wednesday in the Boatshed on GI with lunch in the Kuttabul wardroom afterwards).

 

Dues increase

You will have seen from the last Newsletter that the annual dues were increased from $20 to $30, and the reasons for this were largely covered in that publication. In addition, I would like to point out that in 1996 when the fees were last increased to $20, the CPI was 119, giving the 2009 equivalent of $28.40. Also I’m sure you are getting much more value for your membership today.  Over the past few years the profits from the Sydney Division functions have been put into general revenue to supplement the investment income and dues. For each of the last three years this has been between $3,500 and $4,500. As with other divisions, we are struggling to keep function costs affordable. Although the Committee considers that there is a certain inequity that this contribution should continue to be borne by the Sydney function attendees, it looks like it will be needed for some years yet to attain and maintain a satisfactory level of funds to continue servicing Life Members.

 

Life Membership

With the increased cost of running the Club, and the increasing number of Life Members, an in-depth review of the liability of the Club to continue to fund Life Members was conducted. As a result, changes are proposed to the conditions of Life Membership, and these changes are the subject of a Special Resolution to be presented later in this meeting. The proposed changes will not affect current Life Members. In the future it is intended that most of the Club’s funds will be transferred into a Life Membership fund so that the liability for funding Life Members can be monitored more effectively.

 

Membership

Our membership increased from 669 (last year) to 725. Serving members (RAN and RANR) increased from 46 to 65, plus another 36 Honorary (REOC) RANR members. Our membership has a high demographic viability. We have some very old and frail members who are physically unable to join us at our luncheons and other functions. Others are young, just starting their careers, or second careers, and perhaps very busy. We won’t please everybody every time with our listed events, but we try to reach out to every member. Please let us know how we can do more for you.

 

Some of the news on memberships is not so good. The number of financial members falls quite a bit short of the 700 odd on our books. This past year, more than 100 of our members had not paid their dues by the end of the Club’s fiscal year, 28 February. A disturbing trend is that this number not only continues a pattern of non-payment becoming evident in the previous year, but it exceeds it. I would like to add my voice to that of our Hon. Treasurer in a recent Newsletter plea – please pay your dues and pay them promptly. Failure to do so creates additional burdens for your fellow Club members.

 

REOC

At the New Entry Officers Course Graduation last December I had the pleasure of presenting the Club’s REOC Prize to LEUT Debra Simpson RANR and later this month I will be presenting the prize to SBLT John Cole RANR. John Da Costa was the guest speaker at the REOC training mess dinner at Creswell last month. These occasions give the Club visibility amongst the Navy’s leadership and younger officers.

 

Last year, we sent invitations to 45 REOC graduates to become Honorary members. These were accepted by 26 (60 per cent), of whom seven have gone on to become full members. This year we sent out 26 invitations. So far eight (30 per cent) have accepted. Although largely unsuccessful to date, we shall continue to try to get our REOC members to attend Club functions. Unfortunately, the initiative to have a special REOC attendance at the Penguin BBQ did not receive adequate support. We really would love to see a REOC table with partners at both our signature functions, the Trafalgar Night Dinner on Friday 22 October and the Christmas Parliament House luncheon on Thursday 16 December.

 

Functions

In Sydney, the Club hosted or co-hosted 10 functions that attracted 701 members and their guests (up from 539 attending last year). The biggest events were the Fleet Review (121 attended), the Trafalgar Dinner and Christmas Parliament House Luncheon.

 

We were delighted to have our Patron, VADM Russ Crane, as our Guest of Honour for the Trafalgar Dinner and he spoke to us about his initiative, “The New Generation Navy”.

 

CAPT Michele Miller, the first woman to command a major RAN fleet unit, HMAS Perth, was our Guest of Honour at Parliament House and spoke about “A Generation of Women in the Navy.” She changed the minds of many old salts, who had reservations about women in combat roles at sea.

 

ACT Division

The ACT Division, under Mike Taylor, continues to flourish. They held their AGM last month and during the year conducted nine functions, primarily in a private room in the Southern Cross Yacht Club. Three papers were presented: The Loss of HMS/M Affray, New Generation Navy and Bathurst Class Minesweepers.

 

The Christmas Cocktail Party (which Margie and I attended) attracted more than 70 members and guests. It was a most enjoyable occasion.

 

Queensland Division

In Brisbane, the Club co-hosted, with the Queensland Navy League, the annual Trafalgar Dinner for 70 members and guests. The Guest of Honour was Major General John Hartley. Earlier in the year a luncheon on the Sunshine Coast attracted 30 members, prospective members and guests. Local members are also encouraged to attend the two-monthly Divisional Committee Meetings and lunch held in Brisbane. All social activities continue to be conducted on a pay-as-you-go basis. In addition they will most likely get involved with the NHQ-Sq St Mary’s Church Memorial in Brisbane.

 

WA Division

A renewed membership drive doubled the Club’s WA Division, and at a general meeting in October 2009 the Division was formally re-established.  At that meeting Bob Mummery was elected Chairman, Roy Stall Secretary/Treasurer and Bob Potts, Tony Hughes and Ray Arthurs Committeemen.

 

Since the October meeting the Club’s WA Constitution has been formalised and agreed, a social calendar for 2010 prepared and the Division’s bank account set up.

 

The social calendar has not been totally successful.  A cocktail party scheduled for late January had to be abandoned through lack of member support.  A presentation on “Find the Sydney” by Bob Trotter in April was successful, with approximately 40 attending. As yet they are a relatively small group, actively seeking new members and trying a variety of functions to meet the membership needs.

 

Victoria Division

In Victoria, the Club hosted three lunches and a Trafalgar Night dinner at the Melbourne Club.  With the loss of the Navy and Military Club, the Division experimented with a number of luncheon venues.

 

House flag

In my predecessor’s address at the last AGM he mentioned his desire for a house flag or burgee,. In the June 2009 Newsletter a number of designs, which had been developed by the Committee, were depicted and you were asked to choose. Only about five per cent of the membership responded. Your Committee felt that there was little interest and the matter was dropped.

 

A number of our members have crossed the bar during the year and we shall miss them.

 

Finally, on your behalf, I would like to thank the hard working Committee for their efforts during the year, and wish those not seeking re-election a happy retirement. During lunch I will present, on behalf of the Club, Certificates of Appreciation to John Da Costa, Fred and Gerry Lane, Reinier Jessurun and David Blazey.

 

***

Club History

 

 

What was the Club like 50 years ago? Who were the members and what did they do? A review of some early yearbooks gives some clues. Copies held in the Royal United Service Institution of NSW library show some published in hard cover. The 1950 yearbook has a splendid photograph of cruising yachts under full sail as the frontispiece.

World War II saw an enormous expansion in the strength of the RAN, with upwards of 3,900 officers, including 165 women. Over 2,900 were reservists, many of whom were demobilised through HMAS Rushcutter within 18 months of the cessation of hostilities. They made many friends and had given extraordinary service. Many wanted to maintain contact with one another as they made their way back to civilian life.

LCDR Lawrence Hinchliffe RANVR the Senior Rehabilitation Officer for NSW, investigated the formation of an officers’ association. With the assistance of two friends, CMDR Ron Denovan RANR and LEUT Harry Campey RANVR, he called a meeting in the Teachers Federation Hall, then in Elizabeth Street, Sydney. The meeting was well attended and Ron Denovan was elected president and other office bearers were nominated. They passed around a hat to cover the costs of the meeting and established a small treasurer’s fund with the surplus.

FOCEA not supportive

The Committee sought the blessing of the Flag Officer Commanding East Australian Area (FOCEA), RADM G.C. Muirhead-Gould, to form a Naval Reserve Officers Association. He was not supportive, pointing out that KR & AI forbad officers forming an association. Later, he agreed that a club could be formed and Roy Goddard, who was a chartered accountant and a friend of the admiral, became its first secretary.

The Naval Officers Club was founded in April 1946. By then the Anti-Submarine (A/S) Officers Association had been formed, presumably without the Admiral’s approval and the Naval Officers Club suggested an amalgamation. The A/S Officers would not agree, claiming certain coolness towards them during the early years of the war. In any case, the Club increased membership quickly, initially with retired RANR officers; however by 1948 many ex-Permanent Naval Force officers had joined. Incidentally, Laurence Hinchliffe could not join the founder members because he was still serving.

The Club held its second AGM in Rushcutter, claiming 420 members, an increase of 70 over the past year. They paid a guinea in annual subscriptions and a call of 10 shillings seems to have covered the cost of functions. Their interests reflected those days of yore. Dinners were held in conjunction with Empire Day and Trafalgar Day. There were members’ nights with guest speakers. In 1947 the Empire Day Dinner was held in HMAS Rushcutter and guests included officers from a visiting USN Task Force. RADM Carson USN, the guest speaker, considered himself more a friend than a guest, he said, having served with so many Club members at the Battle of the Coral Sea and in other parts of the Pacific.

Hotel Australia

The Trafalgar Day Dinner was held in the Hotel Australia and both ADML A.R.M Bridge, Joint Chief of Staff in Australia, and RADM H.B Farncomb, then Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Squadron (FOCAS), were the speakers. An annual church service was held in HMAS Rushcutter and members participated in an active sailing program. LCDR Max Hinchliffe was one of the more accomplished skippers and several Club members participated in the 1947 Sydney-Hobart race. The Club’s assets totalled A£267:12:4.

By the third AGM, membership had increased to 451. The Wentworth Hotel hosted the Empire Day Dinner, with 140 members attending, and the Trafalgar Day Dinner was held in Rushcutter.

The fourth AGM was held in the Royal Empire Society, in Bligh Street, Sydney, with the president, CMDR Stan Darling, reporting membership at 483. The Club’s Empire Day Dinner was held at the Carlton Hotel and other functions included a film evening at the Shell Theatrette, a dinner dance and a cocktail party at the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club and a rifle shoot at the Long Bay Rifle Range. Sailing remained a popular pastime with many members racing on weekends. Stan Darling and Max Hinchliffe were two of the regular skippers and many members crewed in Sydney-Hobart races from 1947 onwards. The committee reported a deficit of £48:4:4 around 1950, because of the many functions held outside Rushcutter.

Peter Churchill

Membership fell away markedly during the 1970s and ’80s. There were only 154 members in 1971 and 125 ten years later. The Club’s resurgence from 1988 onwards can be attributed to the enthusiasm of the committee and the Hon Secretary, LCDR Peter Churchill, in particular. Peter introduced a bigger newsletter of great interest. By 1992 there were 492 members and now there are 690.

Today, the membership’s average age is much older than in the 1950s and activities reflect this, with no organised sporting events, although many individuals maintain an active independent interest in sailing everything from square riggers to racing yachts and dinghies. The commemoration of the Battle of Trafalgar has always been an annual occasion and for a few years the Club regularly celebrated the Battle of the Coral Sea. Luncheons at the Royal Automobile Club, barbecues in the wardroom, HMAS Penguin and luncheons in Parliament House, became the most popular social functions in Sydney. Other events, including harbour cruises, cocktail parties and museum visits are arranged from time to time.

In 2004 the Club introduced a December Luncheon in the Strangers’ Room, Parliament House, Sydney. It has proved very popular with a full house of 220 attending in 2007. A major change from earlier years has been the formation of local committees and very active social programs in Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane. Their functions include regular formal and informal dinners, luncheons, barbecues, visits and harbour cruises. The outcome has been a significant increase in membership in Victoria, Queensland and the ACT. Plans are well advanced for a similar Perth-based program. The Club maintains a comfortable investment portfolio.

David Holthouse

RADM David Holthouse was elected President in 1994. Over the next 14 years he guided the Club towards ever-expanding membership numbers, semi-autonomous State-based divisions, a solid financial base, a redesigned and internationally registered newsletter in 32-page magazine format, a 200-page website and, in keeping with the Club’s strong reserve officer origin, a twice-yearly “Naval Officers Club” prize for the best Reserve Entry Officers Course (REOC) graduate.

VADM Ian Knox relieved David in 2009.

Merchandise

In April 2000, Fred Lane relieved Peter Churchill as Hon Secretary and Newsletter Editor and John Ellis relieved Dicky Bird as Hon Treasurer. Peter introduced a Club tie in 1994 and in 2001 David Thomson, in Canberra, introduced Club polo shirts and a lapel badge a year later. This has expanded to include Club Christmas cards, name tallies, CDs of all the known newsletters in .pdf format, and another CD of Wardroom Songs. All merchandise except polo shirts remain in demand.