Southend Royal Naval Association
The Southend Branch of the Royal Naval Association (R.N.A.) (originally called The Royal Naval Old Comrades Association, R.N.O.C.A.) was founded in 1938 by a group of old sailors who met up in the Railway Arms public house, East Street, Prittlewell. The inauguration to become a branch consisted of a parade followed by a church service, this would be representative of other branches, my late father William J. Christmas who was a founder of the Edmonton branch travelled to Southend and took part in the parade. In 1939, World War II started and not much information is available for this period. After the war the branch resumed but moved from the Railway Arms to the Southend United Supporters Club in Seaview Road off Southchurch Road. They stayed there until c1980 when it was decided to move to bigger premises. At this time the Civil Defence Headquarters and Civic Aid Association building became for sale in East Street only a few hundred yards from the original meeting place at the Railway Arms. Some of the members put up the money as a loan to purchase the property. The following members were; Norman Summerhayes, Vic Summerhayes, Stan Summerhayes, Alan Lewis, John Bradbury, Fred Woolard, to name a few. The loan was to be paid back over a period time. My personal association with the R.N.A. began in 1986: My father, who was 85 at the time, was in very low spirits and as he was an ex sailor of 27 years I decided that he and I would join the R.N.A. My father became a Blue Badge member and I became an Associate member as I had served in the R.A.F. 230 Squadron Flying Boats. Sadly shortly afterwards my father passed away. Being ex - R.A.F. I didn’t know whether to stay on, but the friendly atmosphere was brilliant so I stayed, not expecting to still be a member 35 years later! I quickly became an active member and, when Shipmate Norman Summerhayes discovered I was a carpenter, I was soon involved in many woodworking jobs. The first was to design a lofty 10' advertising noticeboard stand which stands outside to this day. My next commission was to construct four large cabinets in which to house model Navy warships. These are around on the Bulkhead and it was a massive project which was all constructed in my garage…..four 6' x 3' cabinets! Shipmates started referring to me as the Ship’s Carpenter (very nautical!) and Shipmates were bringing in objects of interest for me to make glass cabinets in which to display them. In 2005, Nelson’s 200th Anniversary, I sculpted a bust of Nelson, in wood over a six week period, which is displayed in the Nelson’s Bar. I also made a clock depicting the Battle of Trafalgar and it is still in good working order…’s a good timepiece. At one committee meeting it was discussed that a new noticeboard was needed and I was approached to see if I could help. Naturally I duly obliged and designed and supplied all materials to make a 12' noticeboard free of charge, saving the R.N.A. £400. I also created the Pigeon Hole Letters rack plus a polished medal case…..All this work I carried out until I retired. Once a month a ‘Yarn Club’ was held and I was asked if could spin a yarn for them. I took up the challenge and composed four yarns over the years; I would find a subject, study it thoroughly, and perform for the Yarn Club. The four subjects I covered were the life and times of Winston Churchill, the Zulu wars, the history of Dartmoor Prison, and finally my trip across the Nullagh Bar Desert in Australia. All the yarns went down very well with the Yarn Club. The roof started leaking so a fundraising project was launched as the cost of repairs was estimated at £35,000. I raised £500 by asking the local bookmaker for a donation. I also approached a local bank to see if they could help, and they sent me a cheque for £1,000 as a contribution to the cost of repairs. I was approached by Chairman Stan Horner, and President Norman Summerhayes, to take on the role of Welfare Officer, which I accepted and performed for 16 years. At the same time Shipmate Chic Fowler, Charity Organiser who was retiring, asked me if I was interested in taking on the role of Charity Organiser. I declined and the position went to Shipmate Ray Cotton, although I did say I would help if needed…..more on this subject later! The role of Welfare Officer was very demanding but enjoyable. As Welfare Officer I travelled many hundreds of miles visiting sick Shipmates enquiring as to how they were progressing back towards good health. To each visit I would always take with me a bottle of rum, chocolates, and a card signed by all Shipmates. This gesture was highly appreciated by all who received them. At each R.N.A. weekly meeting I would give a written report on how the ‘sick parade’ was going, which was always greeted well. During those 16 years I received nearly a thousand telephone calls, and organised over one hundred ‘Passing over the Bar’ ceremonies (the Naval term for funerals), which meant ensuring that each coffin was draped with the White ensign, and offering any help to the families for which I received numerous cards of thanks from grateful relatives. I would like to relay one of my most outstanding pieces of welfare work. It relates to when I was invited to the Russian Embassy, in London, to collect the Arctic Medal on behalf of my late father. At the same time I was asked to visit sick Shipmate Alf Steadman. Alf was sadly dying of cancer and only had a few weeks left to live. He was also entitled to the Arctic Medal and said he would love to have it before he died. When I told him I was going to collect my father’s he asked if I would collect his too. Alf gave me written permission to collect it on his behalf. A few days later I duly travelled to the Embassy where I received my father’s medal from the Ambassador who was such a lovely man. I handed over Alf’s written consent, to collect his medal, and explained that he was dying and would love to have his medal before he passed. The Ambassador regretfully stated that it would not be possible for me to collect it as Alf would need to sign for his medal. Seeing the look of disappointment on my face the Ambassador said, “Mr Christmas, leave this problem with me.” I duly returned home with the sad news, and later phoned Alf to tell him I didn’t have his medal. He told me not to worry as the Russian Ambassador had been in touch and arranged to travel to Hadleigh (where Alf lived) to present the medal in person. This was wonderful news; the family were so pleased with the outcome. They reported the story to the local Echo newspaper who in turn invited me to a photo shoot with Shipmate Alf. They wrote a double page spread including a picture Alf, with myself holding him upright. It was brilliant! Sadly Shipmate Alf passed away a few days later; he died happily holding his medal. This story was picked up by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex who subsequently invited my wife and I to attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace. This sums up my work as Welfare officer. Meanwhile, Charity Organiser Ray cotton was doing his best but it wasn’t going well. As a result Shipmate Chic Fowler asked if I could help Ray out. On reviewing the Charity set-up I came up with some changes to collection points. I could see that collections in the High Street were not going well. Although Shipmate Ray had Tesco as a collection point I decided to forage around to see if I could help in any way. I managed to secure collection slots at ASDA, Home Bargains and the Factory Shop, where we arranged two collectors every 2 hours from 9am to 5pm. As we were only collecting £200 for a days’ collection at Tesco I teamed up with another Shipmate at ASDA. We were on duty from 11am to 1pm during which time we broke the record by collecting £250 in the two hours. We achieved this by engaging with shoppers and chatting to them about what we do, and it paid dividends. My next stop was the Factory Shop, I secured permission for two days collecting on a Friday and Saturday. The result was a very successful collection of over £800 in the two days. Sadly at this time Shipmate Ray became ill and passed away, so I continued carrying out the two voluntary positions of Welfare Officer and Charity Organiser for the R.N.A. Shipmate President Norman Summerhayes put me forward for the highest collection award for Area 5, which covered the east of England, and I was presented with the John Newman cup for being the highest earner. From 1938 to 2014 Southend R.N.A. had never won a single cup; I was quite pleased to have ended the drought. My motto was ‘If a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing well’. My next idea for raising funds was to put on a ‘show’ with artistes, turning it into an evening of glamour for the ladies. I staged ‘A Frank Sinatra Evening’ and I hired a guy called Ian Gallagher who performed some Frank Sinatra classics. With the entrance fee and raffles I made a profit of £400 for the branch. Over the years I put on more shows making a profit for the branch each time. During my last six years I asked members if they had brass-copper ornaments, aluminium pots and pans or old wiring they no longer needed. Selling these items raised hundreds of pounds for the Association. Over my 35 years with the R.N.A. I met some wonderful people, and said goodbye to many more. In 2019, at the age of 87, I decided it was time to retire from the Royal Naval Association.
By Terry Christmas
Royal Naval Association, East Street, Southend
Royal Naval Association, Advertising Board
William J. Christmas
Drinks Mat May 1981
Terry Christmas
Battle of Trafalgar clock
Bust of Nelson
R.N.A. Welfare Card
Certificate of Appreciation to Terry Christmas

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