Students enjoy their fill of Navy traditions at mess dinner

Published on MIDN Aaron Wischusen (author), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Penguin, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Penguin, Charities, Fundraising & Community, Community Engagement

Students and teachers from local schools visited the Sir David Martin Mess at HMAS Penguin to experience a formal dinner within the traditions of the Royal Australian Navy. L-R: Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin, Commander Paul Gall RAN; Children's Ambassador Fairy Sparkle; Mosman High School student Max Alexander; School Principal Susan Wyatt; and student Alexandra Muir. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
Students and teachers from local schools visited the Sir David Martin Mess at HMAS Penguin to experience a formal dinner within the traditions of the Royal Australian Navy. L-R: Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin, Commander Paul Gall RAN; Children's Ambassador Fairy Sparkle; Mosman High School student Max Alexander; School Principal Susan Wyatt; and student Alexandra Muir.

Sydney school students and teachers were treated to a night of fine dining at a traditional Naval Mess Dinner held by Royal Australian Navy Base, HMAS Penguin last night.

Thirty-three members of seven Sydney high schools attended the ceremonial dinner to gain a little insight into Navy life and customs.

Commanding Officer of Penguin, Commander Paul Gall said the dinner had become an annual event and was a good chance to share time honoured traditions.

“The night isn’t just about food and fun. Each member from the Navy in attendance has provided the students with a bit of back ground information as to why we do what we do,” Commander Gall said.

“For example when we pass the port, always to the left, we slide the bottle across the table, because at sea, lifting it could result in a spill. Of course, at this mess dinner we were passing the grape juice,” he said.

Commander Gall said he was pleased to see the enthusiasm shown by the students, who were keen to be involved in the unique Navy custom.

“For many of the students, it was their first formal dinner, let alone their first Naval mess dinner and the respect shown for our values was great to see,” CMDR Gall said.

Community Engagement Officer, Warrant Officer John O’Brien said the night was a part of the base’s community engagement program and sought to involve locals in events held onboard.

“The Navy Mess Dinner is steeped in traditions and is a rare occasion that many members of the public would seldom get to experience,” Warrant Officer O’Brien said.

“We hope the students were able to take away not only a little bit of history about the Navy, but also some valuable lessons from our guest speaker Fairy Sparkle.”

The costumed Fairy Sparkle, a veteran speaker and advocate of the wellbeing of sick children, attended the event to provide a talk about leadership and happiness.

Ms Sparkle has spent the last 15 years visiting sick children in hospitals and regularly makes appearances at schools and events to speak of her experiences.

Penguin supports a number of community events throughout the year including the ever popular Balmoral Swim for Cancer and the Balmoral Burn.

Located in Balmoral, Sydney, the base is home to a number of significant Navy health and training facilities.