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As a young man I spent many a lunchtime walking along the Thames past the Town-Class Light Cruiser, HMS Belfast. I have an inquisitive mind and I was therefore delighted, during this period, to be invited to dine with Sir Jock Slater, a distinguished OS and First Sea Lord, aboard the Ship.

Some twenty years has passed since then. Sir Jock is still in good form (I saw him only a few weeks ago) and the ship still lies proudly at its berth. Both have an imperial majesty about them, and in the presence of either, you can sense the history of our great nation. It was with great pleasure therefore that on 9th November the OS Club, itself a venerable institution, hosted a dinner for sixty guests aboard the ship.

HMS Belfast was not built with tall people like me in mind. (I am of Dutch extraction, and for those of you who don’t know the Dutch are the tallest nation on Earth. A necessity so that we can keep our heads above water when our dykes break). This design oversight aside, stepping into the bowels of the ship, brought you at once in contact with its history. The smell, the muscular steelwork, the metallic clangs of doors shutting, and the rugged simplistic design of dials and switches, were all echoes of a time when the ship’s crew fought for our country and our freedom.

This was emphasised by James Edwards (S68-73) who gave a fitting tribute to his father, Dennis Wayman Edwards (S36-40) who fought on the sister ship HMS Sheffield, and later on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable. This added a sense of poignancy and pathos to the evening, and to the historical context of the ship and Remembrance Week.

The Headmaster, Mr Dan Harrison, spoke well. He was in confident mood and while everyone was wondering if VAT will cause an issue for independent schools, he was most robust in his conclusions about Sedbergh. These being, the School is full, we are strong, and while VAT is a nuisance, it will not define the School’s future. Our focus is on the long term, not the short.

It was an excellent evening. Unfortunately, we had borrowed a wheelchair from the ship at the end of the evening. In my haste to return it I ran across the road. The front wheels hit the kerb and the chair stopped, quite suddenly. I didn’t! The taxi driver who was collecting our guests found this most amusing and I am sure has made great profit by selling his dashcam footage to YouTube.

Thank you to those who attended. It was a most fun evening and I enjoyed talking to all of you.

Jan van der Velde

Director of Alumni Development

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