An 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.
On 20th February, 1933 Mrs. Nelson-Ward convened a meeting of Merchant Navy officers’ wives. A room in the premises of the Officers (Merchant Navy) Federation was put at their disposal.
Download Captain William H. Coombs and ‘The Navigators’ based on a talk given to members and guests of The Wtch Ashore to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Navigators & General on 1 March 2011. (Mark Longford FCII, Operations Manager, Navigators & General. Spring 2011) >>
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