The theme of the Gathering was the Family connections with the Royal Navy. The only place we could hold this event was therefore at the heart of the Navy – Portsmouth.
Saturday 7th October
On Saturday morning, some departed on the Mystery Coach Tour, after landing a couple of stowaways from the HMS Conway Association, who were also staying at the hotel! The rest gathered at the Dockyard for an introductory tour. Our guide explained that the Admiralty had at first insisted on a clear area outside the dock gates to leave a free field of fire for the defending guns, and employees had to live several miles away. The rule was eventually relaxed, and building started along The Hard. We then went inside the Dockyard to see the outside of the many historic buildings that remain, before boarding HMS Victory, to see (and feel!) her construction, and hear about life on board. After this, we dispersed to follow our own interests, and visit as many of the other displays as we were able to manage. On Saturday evening, we met again to dine in a private room in the hotel.
Sunday 8th October
On Sunday, we assembled in the Portsmouth Guildhall for the main part of the Gathering. Sir Robert Balchin spoke first of Pat Green, her life and achievements as the main driving force in the establishment of the Society. We stood in silence for a minute to mark her memory.(Click here for Jennifer Dixon’s tribute to her sister). Sir Robert then talked on Admiral Temple West, the son-in-law of Admiral Balchin. Next came the first of two talks on life in the Royal Navy, presenting an interesting contrast to Michael Balchin’s story in Issue 12 of the Newsletter. Ted Balchin joined the Navy at the end of 1944 to train as an Ordnance Artificer and gave an account of his story. Then Jenny Dixon presented Pat’s item on ‘Balchins in the Navy’.
Jenny then valiantly stood in for Pat in the ‘What have you found?’ session, in which various loose ends of Balchin family history were presented in the hope of linking them into the wider picture. After an excellent lunch, the AGM was held. Graham Balchin then described ‘A Life on the Ocean Wave 1954 – 1978’. He first explained why he was a Balchin with a Scottish accent – his grandfather had served in the Navy, and then had moved to Scotland during the first World War as a coastguard. At the second attempt, Graham passed the Civil Service examination, and in 1954 joined Dartmouth Naval College as a cadet. He eventually served as a supply officer for the nuclear submarine fleet before retiring in 1978. Jenny Dixon then presented her solution to ‘The Mystery of Grandma’s Intimate Connection with Portsmouth’.