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Branch History

The inaugural meeting of the Barrow-in-Furness Branch of the Submarine Old Comrades' Association was held at the Bay Horse Inn at Hawcoats, Barrow-in-Furness, on 14th May 1963.

Fifteen of the eighteen Founder Members were in attendance and these were ERA J G Jackson, AB (ST) J R Ogden, ERA R W Moody, Ldg Stoker F E Webb, LME R W Burns, AB W H Pope, Stoker T Hill, PO L W Malkin, J Burlinson, AB R Lightfoot, Ldg Seaman W M McCall, M(E) W P Lorking, Chief Elec G Cubiss DSM, CPO F Wright and Ldg Stoker J Greenwood. The three unable to attend were F A Rewell, J Lothian and L Pattison, DSM, BEM. Mr Jackson was elected as the Chairman and Mr Ogden, Hon Secretary and Treasurer.

At the second meeting on 4th June 1963 action was put in hand to join the National Association and Mr Peter Scott-Maxwell, DSC, was elected as President of the Branch. By the third meeting there were thirty one members and the meeting was attended by the, then, SOCA National Secretary, Bill Sadlier, and four members of the crew of HMS VALIANT, then building at Vickers.

In September 1964 the President resigned, but continued as a Vice President. A new President, Captain (E) L F Ingram, was elected at the October 1964 meeting.

The Branch continued to run successfully until New Year 1967 when some difficulty arose over the monthly meeting venue, and a new meeting place was sought. On 25th January 1967 a meeting was held at The Knights of St Columba Club in Dalkeith Street. This was followed by a gap in meetings until the AGM on 4th April 1967, which was held in the Theatre Bar in Cavendish Street, and this continued to be the venue until September 1967 when the first meeting was held at the Harbour Hotel on The Strand.

The Barrow Branch appears to have been a very social branch and the first recorded visit by another branch to Barrow was one by the Bury Branch in May 1973. When one of the Founder Members (Mr W H Pope) died he left a small bequest to the Branch and with the proceeds a cup was purchased (Mr Pope's Pot) to be competed for by Branch members in a darts competition.

A close liaison was maintained with the crews of building submarines with several launches attended by Branch members and, in April 1974, the Branch was invited to visit the CPO's mess at HMS NEPTUNE - this visit appears to have taken place in August 1974. With regard to social events, there was some excitement at the annual dinner dance in 1975, which led to the expulsion of one Branch member resulting from his conduct at the dinner! No names - no pack drill!

Captain Ingram stated his intention to retire as Branch President in May 1978, and Commander Jim Jones was invited to take over the Presidency from April 1979.

The integration of the Branch into National and local events had built up over and by 1982 there was also a close liaison with the Barrow Sea Cadets, the Royal Naval Association and the crews of the building submarines at Barrow.

After many happy years of holding meetings at the Harbour Hotel, a change of venue became necessary in February 1987 and meetings were then held at the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel in Abbey Road. By the 25th anniversary in May 1988 the Branch had 77 members and attendance at monthly meetings averaged 17.

A further change of venue was necessary in late spring 1990 and the June meeting was held at the Crow's Nest on Ferry Road, Barrow Island. A social evening on 8th June 1990 coincided with a visit to the Branch by the National President, Rear Admiral Whetstone, who was in Barrow for the Commissioning of HMS Unseen.

Jim Jones gave up the President's post in March 1991 and it was agreed to abolish the post of President altogether! This was a short-term decision, however, and the post was later re-established. By April 1993 the membership had increased to 91, with an average meeting attendance of 23, with good attendance at local and National functions.

A move of venue from the Crow's Nest to the George on Walney Island took place in December 1993, and several meetings were held there before a return to the Harbour Hotel in May 1994. The Branch ventured abroad in 1996 with a visit by several members and wives to the Charlestown in the United States and to USS YORKTOWN.

In May 1997 the Branch first heard of the proposal to change the name of the organisation from the Submarine Old Comrades' Association, and some considerable concern was expressed. About the same time there was the first news of the Centenary of the Submarine Service in both Barrow and nationally; there was great enthusiasm for this and a Barrow Committee was formed!

Another overseas visit took place in late 1998 when several members and wives visited the Vancouver and Toronto Branches. In March 1999 a visit to the Tasmania Branch was mooted and in April 2000, three members and their wives visited Australia.

After all the discussions and concerns raised and argued locally and nationally the proposed name change from the Submarine Old Comrades' Association to the Submariners' Association took place, and the first Branch meeting under the new name took place on 4th May 1999. At this time Branch member, John Houlding, was the National Secretary and travelled to many branches nationwide to explain the reasons behind the change from the SOCA to the SA. During 1999 and 2000 planning for the Barrow Submarine Centenary celebrations continued in earnest with more and more branches and local organisations promising support.

The year 2000 brought the sad news of the KURSK disaster and the Branch was heavily involved in raising funds for the dependants, and was supported in this by many local organisations. In the same year the Branch reached the magic figure of 100 members, and by March 2001, the membership had increased to 119. After all the planning the Barrow Submarine Centenary weekend was a great success and many letters of congratulations were received.

The Barrow Branch continued to thrive and lent a helping hand in the setting up of the Northern Ireland Branch. In recent years there have been visits to the Canada (East Coast) Branch in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and to Northern Ireland, and visitors have been received (and entertained) from many UK branches. In 2006 a Branch member fills the post of National Chairman and another Branch member has just been co-opted to the National Committee. As the Barrow Branch approaches its 43rd Anniversary and looks forward to further success in the future, In 2006, there are 132 active members and the countdown has started to a 45th Anniversary celebration in 2008.

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