Footballers get a taste of Victory

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Stephen Cole (author)

Location(s): Portsmouth, United Kingdom, Lympstone, United Kingdom

In breaks from games at Portsmouth and Exeter, the squad visited HMS Victory - the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world and the flagship of the First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy. (photo: Unknown)
In breaks from games at Portsmouth and Exeter, the squad visited HMS Victory - the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world and the flagship of the First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy.

As part of their recent UK tour, members of the Navy Football Federation Australia were inspired by history and tradition to support their on-field performance.

In the UK for a three-match series against the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, the visit coincided with Anzac Day commemorations.

The 38 person squad comprised a women's team, men's team and men's masters (over 35) team.

In breaks from games at Portsmouth and Exeter, the squad visited HMS Victory - the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world and the flagship of the First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy.

HMS Victory was built in 1765 and commissioned 1778 which has been preserved exactly as it was during the Battle of Trafalgar. 

Team members stood on the exact spot where Admiral Lord Nelson was shot on Victory’s deck during the battle, and later passed away from the wounds he received.

"Being on HMS Victory with the team and getting such a fascinating tour was fantastic and I think everyone was very impressed, we did not want to get off," Petty Officer Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Sarah Hickling said.

Able Seaman Aviation Technician Aircraft Alexander (Ted) Little said the team were particularly interested in learning that many words and phrases from the 1700s are still in use today such as the ‘rule of thumb’ from victuals measuring, through to three ‘square’ meals from the square plates used on board.

"Receiving a private tour of HMS Victory and experiencing such an amazing and vivid history first hand was the highlight of the tour for me, it blew me away," Able Seaman Little said.

The team were also guests at a graduation ceremony of the Royal Marines Commando King’s Squad witnessing a tradition which dates back to 1918.

King George V then decreed that the best recruit would be awarded the King’s Badge, which is now awarded to the recruit who displays the best Royal Marines attributes; Commando Spirit and academic performance throughout the 32 weeks recruit training.

The graduation ceremony lasts all day and includes a reception, a theatre presentation and a parade. The reception and presentation were highly professional and dynamic, and families of the recruits were introduced to the training team members, given presentations detailing the training received and the challenges overcome.

Lieutenant Ryan McGill said the touring party found the ceremony both impressive and endearing, noting the high quality of the training provided and the humility and humour used in the delivery of the presentation. The Royal Marines recruits produced a video to music of their journey through the gruelling Green Beret Royal Marine Commando Course which the Navy Football team viewed with a sense of empathy and respect.

"I think we were all pleased to be invited to such a prestigious event and seeing these guys receive their green beret after such long and arduous training was truly impressive," Lieutenant McGill said.

The highlight of the ceremony was the precision and uniformity of the King’s Squad drill display, accompanied by the Royal Marine Band.

"Watching the Royal Marines complete their Kings Parade was outstanding, the complexity of the drill was breath taking and had us all talking about it for days," Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Madison Cater said.

But the most important off-field activity was held on 24 April, when members of the touring squad attended an intimate Anzac Day Service at the Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth, Hampshire, where 11 Anzacs were laid to rest between 1913 and 1918. 

The service was hosted by the Royal British Legion and the local Royal Marines Cadet Corps, and attended by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and approximately 80 members of the local community.

Lieutenant Commander Neil Davenport, Lieutenant Ryan McGill and Chief Petty Officer Combat System Manager Pete Burnett laid a wreath at the grave stones of the fallen.

"It was a moving service, and really great to experience the impact of Anzac Day and its importance on the other side of the world," Lieutenant McGill said.

Having no family in the United Kingdom to tend the graves, a local couple, Edward and Harriet Sanderson, took it upon themselves to tend the graves of the fallen heroes on a weekly basis - they continued to do this until they were killed in a bombing raid in August 1940.

Shortly after their passing it was decided that the graves of the Anzacs be re-located within the cemetery and now the eleven Anzacs are re-united in a single line. 

Edward and Harriet were laid to rest at the end of this line with the men they so dearly cared for over the years prior to their passing in remembrance of their commitment.

Each Navy member was provided with a cross of remembrance to lay at the grave of their choice.

Although a sombre and moving occasion, it was reassuring to observe that fallen comrades are still remembered by their British counterparts.

"The amount of effort shown by the local Royal Marine Cadets was outstanding and really added some prestige to the Anzac Day ceremony," Chief Petty Officer Burnett said.
The Australian team took time to speak to the Lord Mayor and ex-servicemen in attendance including a recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Navy Football Federation Australia conducted a tour of the United Kingdom between 14-29 April.