The Founding of The Watch Ashore

Mrs Neslon WardAn Extract from Watch Ashore - A History

Captain Coombs (founder of the Officers (Merchant Navy) Federation) often went down to visit Admiral Nelson-Ward at the latter’s home in Sussex in order to discuss the many matters which related to their joint work for improvement in the conditions of Merchant Navy officers. The Honourable Mrs. Nelson-Ward was keenly interested in these discussions and often said to her husband that the wives and mothers of officers would be only too eager to help in the cause of reform, could this be possible. The Admiral declared that such assistance would be more than welcome if a way could be found to organize and use it.

Why should there not be a definite association of womenfolk, relatives of Merchant Navy officers? So asked Mrs. Nelson-Ward. In this manner was the future Watch Ashore suggested. Mrs. Nelson-Ward set out a sound, practical idea of a body that would not be a women’s club on the pattern of those already existing. It would be an organization for the specific purpose of its members getting to know each other and working for the same end: to stimulate public interest in all matters concerning the Merchant Navy and its officers, and to enlist public support for the reforms which were urgently necessary. The need for these reforms was being ignored in official quarters as well as by the shipowners. It was essential to bring the facts to the notice of the public.The new association would make itself responsible for this; it would be a ‘ginger group ‘, writing letters to Members of Parliament, getting publicity in the Press, trying to interest influential people in the pressing problems of the Merchant Navy.


Past Watch Ashore Chairmans and dates of their terms of office

 Lady Headley (President)   1933-1976   Fiona Cook  1994-1997
 Jean Whipp  1976-1979  Doreen Morris  1997-2000
 Isobel Allan  1979-1982  Liz Swan  2000-2003
 Joyce Watkins  1982-1985  Pat Warren  2003-2006
 Elizabeth Proudlock  1985-1988  Sue Vickery  2006-2009
 Rita Richards  1988-1991  Margaret Gray  2009 - 2012
 June Barnes  1991-1994  Chris Rankin MBE   2012

Venues of National and Triennial Meetings

  • 2011 York
  • 2012 Plymouth
  • 2013 London
  • 2014 Birmingham