The 2016 Nelson Society Trafalgar Dinner took place in the magnificent Wardroom of HMS Nelson. Over 140 members and guests, suitably attired in Black Tie and with the Ladies in some stunning evening wear, assembled in the main bar of HMS Nelson where the evening started we started with the Chairman’s Champagne Reception.

The dinner gong was promptly sounded at 7pm and the members and guests were shown into the spectacular Wardroom. The room has a continuous painting by H Wylie running around the whole upper section of the room depicting scenes from a number of famous engagements, including the Battle of Trafalgar and the Nile. At the head of the room, above the top table is a portrait of Nelson himself, who proudly looked down on the members and guests assembled in his honour.

The meal and entertainment had been brilliantly organised by Committee Member, Jeanette Ryder, who ensured that every detail had been attended to. After being “piped aboard” and introduced to the Top Table, which included Tom Floyd, the High Sheriff of Hampshire and Raglan Tribe, the great x 4 grandson of Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. Grace was said by Rev Terry Colling, the Society’s Chaplain and dinner commenced with the “Breaking the Line” starter, followed by a “Shot, Ball and Powder” Champagne Sorbet appetiser.

Then came the first special event of the evening: the “Parade of Baron of Beef” when the Cumberland Guard proudly marched around the tables, finally asking permission to carve from the Chairman, Paul Ganjou. The main course of “Fleet Broadside” was simply delicious and was `washed down’ with plenty of excellent red wine.

The second special event was the “Parade of Ships of the Line” which was  marched around the room several times. The ships were model Galleons adorned with sparklers and made entirely of chocolate! and the cannon balls were Maltesers! (The parade almost had to be cancelled due to “Health and Safety” as it was feared that the sparklers could set off the fire alarms, but Jeanette managed to resolve this, allowing the parade to take place. It was extremely well received and greeted with much approval.

After the “Hardy’s Finale” desert, the obligatory port was passed with strict observance of Royal Naval protocol, during which the superbly crafted chocolate “Ships of the Line” were eagerly consumed.

The Loyal toast was proposed by Vice-chairman Chris Brett followed by the toast to the Society, by Tom Floyd, the High Sheriff of Hampshire. It was an amazing surprise to hear that an ancestor of Mr Floyd’s, also called Tom Floyd, happened to be a Midshipman in Constantine Phipps 1773 Exploration Voyage to the Arctic, which included another Midshipman who had a famous adventure with a polar bear! Midshipman Floyd was obviously very well acquainted with the young Horatio Nelson and later wrote ‘A Midshipman’s Narrative’ of the voyage, which was eventually published in its own right.

Due to a last minute cancellation the address by Andrew Baines on “Conserving HMS Victory: 200 years of caring for Victory at Portsmouth Dockyard” was valiantly undertaken by HMS Victory’s Archaeologist, Michael Lobb – and which was followed by an appreciative response from Paul Ganjou.

With Nelson looking down, the toast to the “Immortal memory” was proposed by Committee Member, Colonel Ray Aldis, with a full and very interesting preamble.

The last event was the Raffle which was again run by the ubiquitous Jeanette. There were many worthwhile prizes, but the First Prize – a Weekend in London including Theatre Tickets – was won by Philip Lumley, who had only joined the Society the previous week!

The evening passed in a flash and was soon sadly all over. Our thanks go to the excellent staff of HMS Nelson and to Chairman Paul Ganjou and his TNS Committee – but above all, our especial gratitude must go to the ever-enthusiastic and tireless Jeanette Ryder.

Jon Ponting.