This Blog has been designed to enable ex and serving Communications Branch Personnel of the Royal New Zealand Navy to maintain contact with fellow Communicators and to advise members of items of interest as they arise. We would especially invite serving members of the Communications Branch to come and visit the site and to access the knowledge of the retired members in any communications projects which they may be assigned. Remember there is years of experience available on tap and all you have to do is ask.
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History of the Naval & Ex Naval Communications Association
By Jim Blackburn (Sparker)
During the latter part of 1966, in various discussions amongst ex Sparkers, Buntings and Coders at “Old Ships” reunions, it became obvious that a get-together of ex members of the Comms Branch was long overdue. Over a period of about 6 months, during my spare time, and with the help of a contact in the Drafting and Records Office, I complied a list of about 800 names and last known addresses of people who had served in the Comms Branch at some time, going back as far as the mid 1930’s. With enormous help from my wife, and at our own expense, a circular letter was produced and a copy mailed to everyone on the list, informing them of the suggested forming of a “Naval Communicators Association” and asking for their comments.
There was overwhelming support for an “Association” to go ahead. In March 1967 another letter was mailed out advising that a meeting would be held in April to further explore the formation of the Association, also to guage the level of support and gather ideas on what aims it would have.
More than 250 turned up to the meeting (at which I was asked to take the Chair) and amongst those attending, in mufti and in their private capacity, were a number of Officers and Senior Ratings, including myself,who were then still serving, At this meeting a Steering Committee of 5 was elected, with myself as Secretary/Treasurer, empowered to draw up a Constitution and present it for adoption at another General Meeting, when, the Association would be inaugurated as the “Naval Communicators Association”.
Shortly after the Steering Committee was formed I was summoned to the presence of a Flag Officer, who asked me if I knew Naval History, and how the Spithead Mutiny was organised and planned, and what was I doing starting this Association similar to a “Trade Union” in which serving Officers and Men were involved.
After much discussion, I was able to convince the Flag Officer that the Association was being formed purely for the bringing together of both serving and ex serving people for Social purposes. I was advised that it would be prudent for myself not to hold any Office in this Association whilst I was still a serving C.P.O. and that the Association name should be changed to “Naval & Ex NavaL Communicators Association” forthwith. This same Flag Officer, who was a Long “C” Course graduate, became a good supporter and member of the Association after he left the Navy.
On 22 July 1967,a meeting was held at which over a 120 were present and the Constitution was discussed, amended, until it was adjudged acceptable. On 6 October 1967 at a meeting in HMNZS Ngapona, the Steering Committee resigned and the first formal elections of officials took place. Mr Dick Connell who had been acting as Chairman of the Steering Committee being elected as the First President and Mr Tony (Bluey) Gilmour as Vice President. Despite being pressured, I “prudently” declined to take any office in the Association, except as “the Ex Officio Serving Member”, but since I left the Navy in 1970 I have served on the Committee continuously and held every office in the Association,
Vice President 1971-2, President 1973-4, Secretary/Treasurer 1984-93. The Constitution was formally adopted.
The Naval & Ex Naval Communicators Association was duly inaugurated. Letters were sent to the New Zealand Naval Board and Commodore Auckland advising them of the now complete formation of the Association, also to the NZ Returned Services Association and the NZ Ex-Navalmens Association. A letter of Congratulation and Good Wishes was received from NZNB. Every year a Reunion, A.G.M. and Dinner/Dance was held at around Queens Birthday weekend usually in HMNZS Ngapona, or the Ex-Navalmens Club followed by Church Service in the Naval Base, until 1983, when due to lack of support it was decided to have “Dining Out” night in various Restaurants or Hotels.
Other notable events over the years were reunions at HMNZS Irirangi in 1970 in Palmerston North in 1973 and a tour of the Nissan Datsun assembly plant in 1979. In 1993 CVI Arthur Venus took the chair and with an undaunting committee arranged the last last big reunion held in Auckland at the Takapuna Rugby Club Easter 1994. In a similar vein in 1997 a committee was formed chaired by Frank Rands to organise the 1999 reunion which was held again in Auckland at Labour Weekend.
Other successful Reunions were held in 2004 (Auckland) and 2009 (Nelson) under his stewardship. The gavel was passed to David Carroll at the 2009 Annual General Meeting. A reunion in 2012 (Auckland) was a great success and the next Reunion planned will occur in 2015 in Wellington.