In the early part of the year I was approached by the Vice Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, Lt Col Sir Guy Acland, Bt, LVO, DL, to ask if the MVS would like to have a display stand in the Cowes Yacht Haven for the visit of HM The Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh on 25th July. The unit agreed and preparations began. During the course of preparations for the big event it was stressed that we need to show a greater emphasis on younger members than we do in our national literature and on our website as our stand would be alongside Sea Scouts, Sea Cadets and the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust – all of which are really youth organisations and the purpose was to emphasize what is being done for young people. So we put on our thinking caps and looked at the statistics for the MVS in relation to the average age of members and decided that for the sake of succession planning if the MVS is to be here in 30 years time we really ought to be trying to attract younger members – say 18 to 25 year olds. This age group is still eligible to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme and with our training new skills could be learnt, volunteering looks good on a CV, qualifications can be gained, all essential for D of E Award, and young people could be adding to their CV plus be able to gain a prestigious D of E Gold Award at the same time and so the stand was created around this thought.
The unit has a new member who has done adventurous training with young people for many years and we had also gained another new member who is only 20 and the holder of a Trinity House Cadetship that has gained him quite advanced RYA qualifications and he is willing to pass his knowledge on to other young members. The stand was designed by Alan Williams (the new member who will train the youth members), Malcolm Shaylor (IoW unit PR Officer) and muself. Two story boards in pictures were set up showing what the MVS does locally and nationally and third centre display featuring the ‘Youth Section’ and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.
We also had a display space outside where we put the Shallow Draft Flood Response boat. The day before the Queen’s visit we set up the stand and there was a rehearsal with one of our County Councillor’s and his wife acting as the Queen and the Duke. Discussions took place with the Lord Lieutenant, Major General Martin White, regarding the protocol of receiving the Queen. He wanted the indoor exhibitions to be a little less ‘military’ despite all the uniforms so it was decided that we would all meet Her Majesty negative headgear and so there would no need to salute her at each stand as the Lord Lieutenant had saluted her on her arrival on behalf of us all. He was very pleased with what he saw at all the stands and congratulated everyone on all the effort that had been made.
The great day dawned and we all arrived at the Cowes Yacht Haven at 09.00hrs to make the final touches to the stand and get ready to receive the Queen just after 11.00hrs each stand had 4 minutes to introduce Her Majesty to all the members on the stand and escort her round the stand giving her a brief resume on what the organisation is about. The plan was that the Queen would go to each stand around the hall escorted by the Lord Lieutenant in a clockwise direction and the Duke of Edinburgh would go anti-clockwise in company with the Vice Lord Lieutenant. On the MVS stand were David Dobson, Malcolm Shaylor and myself. Also with us was Alan Williams with our youngest and very new member James Boast. The Lord Lieutenant presented me to the Queen and she asked me what the organisation was about and what I did within it so I told her briefly about the MVS then introduced her to the others. Her Majesty was very relaxed and easy to talk too and she has the most disarming smile that makes one feel quite at home talking to her. I know I felt very honoured to have the opportunity to speak to her face to face and I think the others enjoyed their moment too. No longer is the Queen just a familiar face to us, we have stood right next to her and chatted to her. She was very interested in what the MVS is about, particularly the resilience aspect and the youth section and looked at the boards and items on display. The IW Unit flood boat was on display outside the building alongside the Coastguard Rescue vehicle and there pictures of it in action both with the boat and on the stand.
The Queen left us after her short visit to move on to the Ellen MacArthur Children’s Cancer Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived on the stand. I was presented to him by the Vice Lord Lieutenant, Sir Guy Acland and we followed the same protocol as with the Queen. The Duke was particularly interested in what we are proposing to do in relation to the D of E scheme and chatted to Alan Williams about this for several minutes. This is the second time the Duke of Edinburgh has encountered the MVS in Cowes, the last time being 2 years ago when he visited Cowes Sea Cadets and MVS had been invited to have a presence then. Unfortunately there were no official photographs of us with the Duke of Edinburgh this time.
Once all the stands had been visited the Lord Lieutenant made a short speech thanking the Queen and Prince Phillip for coming to visit the island and they were presented with a beautifully crafted handmade glass bowl commemorating the Diamond Jubilee and the Royal visit to the island. The Queen was presented with a hamper of Isle of Wight goodies and some special IoW Biltong for the corgis. There was a huge round of applause as the Royal couple bade us goodbye and left the building to be whisked away by helicopter to the New Forest Show. And so we had come to the close of a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, a real close up with our Queen to be treasured for life; but that wasn’t quite all the Lieutenancy had laid on a thank you reception/buffet lunch for all the participants giving us a chance to talk with the other guests before packing up the stand.
Lynn Peppitt, AVO South