The Blue Funnel Line - Middies and Friends Reunion
The reunion lunch is served in the Court Room on board the HQS Wellington
A SUMMARY OF THE DAY...
On 4 May 2022 the Blue Funnel Line 'Middies' and Friends Reunion took place on board the HQS Wellington which is moored on the Embankment in London. 59 people attended, including 'Middies' members, their wives and guests.
The event started at noon with drinks on the quarterdeck before the party went below decks to the Court Room, the former engine room space which has been converted into a magnificent dining saloon, for the buffet lunch. The day finished with informal drinks in the ship's Wardroom.
Further details for the day, including the full list of attendees and the running order of the day can be found in the event Menu Card below.
Alfred Holt and Company, trading as Blue Funnel Line, was a major British shipping company that was founded in 1866 and operated merchant ships for 122 years. Blue Funnel Line (also known as Ocean Transport & Trading) was one of the four UK partners which formed Overseas Containers Limited in the 1960s. Until the early 1980s Blue Funnel separately managed and manned the Liverpool Bay class container vessels which were operating on the Europe-Far East trade for OCL. A number of ex-Blue Funnel staff had already been working ashore for OCL and they were joined by their sea staff colleagues in what then became P&O Containers after P&O SNCo bought the shares in OCL owned by Blue Funnel, British & Commonwealth, and Shaw Savill in the early/mid-1980s (P&O Containers in turn of course merged with Nedlloyd Lines in 1997 to form P&O Nedlloyd).
A number of Blue Funnel ex-staff associations were set up after the company moved out of shipping, one of which was formed of former 'Middies' (midshipmen, known as cadets in P&O) who had served on the training ship M.V. Calchas. This was then extended to include the 'Middies' from the second training ship, Diomed. The late Len Holder (a past master of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners) and Alan Stimson (former curator of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich) started what was to become a series of reunions in Liverpool from around 2003. Over the years the membership has broadened further to include other former Blue Funnel sea staff.
In 2019 the decision was taken to relocate the reunions to London, largely due to its convenience for the majority of attendees. HQS Wellington, the former Royal Navy WW2 warship and headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners moored on the Thames Embankment in the heart of the city was an obvious choice of venue..
Covid unfortunately prevented reunions in 2020 and 2021 but for 2022 the decision was taken to extend the invitation to the event to make it the gathering "The Blue Funnel Line - Middies and Friends Reunion".
THE LINK TO P&O NEDLLOYD...
In addition to the Blue Funnel company link to OCL mentioned above, the organisers of the reunion included Captain Ken Owen (who was accompanied by his wife Allwyn) and Ian Thomson (who was with his wife Joanne). Both Ken and Ian are ex-Blue Funnel 'Middies' (midshipmen) who had transferred to OCL, Ken remaining at sea with Ian taking on various office roles in the UK and overseas.
Ken and Ian had kindly extended an invitation to the event to former PONL colleagues Captain Roy Whelan and his wife Vicky, Captain Will Stoker (with his wife Kerry), Doug Gates and Mike Chapman (Roy, Will, Doug and Mike also being ex-OCL/P&OCL/PONL sea staff who had office-based roles at one point in their career with the company). Vicky's name will also be familiar to many as she too worked for our old company in Beagle House).
From the left: Captain Ken Owen, Mrs Allwyn Owen, Mrs Joanne Thomson, Captain Roy Whelan, Captain Will Stoker & Ian Thomson
THE FINAL REVIEW...
The HQS Wellington was a wonderful venue for this event with its many public spaces filled with ship models and other maritime history artefacts. Given that the majority of attendees had a nautical background, the movement of the ship at its moorings as other vessels passed by on then Thames also brought back memories for many!
Like all reunions though, these events are about bringing people together and on the Blue Funnel for Old Timers Facebook group one of the members provided the following very apt summary:
"The AH house flag was flying from HQS Wellington in central London yesterday for the annual (postponed from 2020!) "middies" reunion. A very sociable day, meeting old colleagues and enjoying a good lunch. Whilst this reunion was originally started for the Blue Funnel middies on the cadetships Calchas and Diomed it is open to all. It is planned to be repeated next year and hope that many others can attend."
Another member wrote to thank the organisers as follows:
"Just a word of thanks to you all and anybody else I haven't mentioned in organising yesterday’s reunion which was a great success and certainly appreciated by all present... Full marks for making it happen and securing the Wellington which is a venue second to none for such an event... Got home safely at 2030 after a very enjoyable day..."
From all of the feedback received both during and after the event there seems to be unanimous agreement that it was a great success. A commitment has therefore been made to start planning for a repeat in 2023, with a number of members stepping forward to take over the helm as next year's organisers.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND MORE PICTURES...!
With sincere thanks to the organisers and attendees who kindly provided content and photographs for this article including: Ralph Brough, Terry Clark, Jeremy Grammer, Vanessa Harrison, Tony Mundella, Pegi Shove and Ian Thomson,.
Further photographs are available at: