Steve Adkins meets Ray 'Ginge' West for the first time
Part II

Dad had no other photos of my mum, but mum’s family, the Wetherill’s, have supported me and have supplied many “In Service” photos recently (2020). Some of which have been sent to the WRNS association. Though none, as yet, have come to light with mum & dad together. Typical of Ray, always behind the camera. From my adoption papers and Lt. Col. Jim Mason’s recollections of the time and now with the lack of dad’s memory to call on, I can only go on written facts and sometimes these are incorrect. From my adoption papers that mum wrote, she was Ray’s steady girlfriend for ~ 7 months, but then, according to dad, she just “Disappeared” She was actually posted back to the UK, while he went off on the Glasgow to ports unknown, but probably Greece (Bay of Athens etc.) was probably one of them.

I will see if I can shed further light on this, but from mum’s RN service records, she arrived in Malta at HMS Falcon. One ex-RM told me she was a known by the trade name of a “Jack Dusty” by the Marines, He was not a bandsman, but spent many years in Malta in the late 1950’s and 60’s). The WRNS from HMS Falcon were billeted at Hal-Far October 1951. The RN & RNAS were pretty self-contained on the air base and further basic data (among several other web sites) may be located here:

In fact, mum was on Malta before dad, but she did not move to HMS Phoenicia on Manoel Island until February 1953 and subsequently left for HMS President (London, 16th September 1953). Approximately7 months in Phoenicia, but almost 2 years on overseas duty. Apparently, WRNS in those days did usually 2-year overseas postings and then returned home & immediately were given 2 weeks leave. I have been informed by other wonderful senior ex-WRNS that later overseas postings were reduced to 18 months, but that was after 1954.
Mum’s ‘new’ office at HMS Phoenicia, Base Supply Office {BSO?} was apparently adjacent to the RM Band office, so mum & dad must have hit it off from the start. This image may jog some memories.

Mum is next to the officer leaning on her friend, wonder if the shirt ‘colour’ designates RMB’s vs. RN?

From my adoption papers and Lt. Col. Jim Mason’s recollections of the time, mum was Ray’s steady girlfriend for ~ 7 months, but then, according to dad, she just “Vanished.”

Dad said previously she had not been in Malta long, but mum had, except not at Phoenicia / Manoel Island. So, we will have to get our inspector Clouseau hat out again.

We are working on the other names, of course any further ex-RMB assistance is sincerely appreciated.

‘Sweetheart Photo,’ L to R (as viewed) Mac (Strand Palace Hotel, Palace Square, Valletta proprietor), unknown, not mum, Ray, possibly Ned Kelly)

Hopefully something will come to light as Ray has departed up to the big band in the sky.

‘Malta Bar’ photo L to R as viewed, standing: possibly the Glasgow’s PE instructor, but name is not known, next maybe Eileen’s husband to be, flying officer Williams (RAAF De Havilland Vampire pilot) but it’s a big ‘perhaps’ until I communicate with Eileen, if she is still around? Next to him is Ned Kelly unfortunately also gone to join the big sky band.

Again, he is possibly in the “Sweetheart” photo (in civvies), seated: dad Ray West, not mum, Eileen, next wife of RM Drum Major, will see if I can confirm her name later and Lt. Col. Jim Mason, again location unknown. Bar maybe the Strand Palace or the ‘Movement Inn,’ other than that I have no idea.

Dad was a Cricket Tragic and as Michael Hutton confirms he was also a hockey fanatic, trips over to France supporting the Corp’s etc.

I have no idea who any of the players are possibly RM’s and the goalie has definitely been around for a while! Suspect this was taken mid to late 1950’s. Dad is back row, second in from far RHS as viewed

I am indebted to my Gary West (cousin) for sending me some of these great photos, I was going through & scanning some other amazing Malta & Med Fleet photos that my Auntie Shirley let me have while visiting the UK, she is now the last of the four.

See enclose “Champagne Toast,” from Ray’s 24th Birthday, taken at the Strand Palace Hotel, Valletta. (‘Pop,’ Lt. Col. Jim, Ray, standing, Isabel, Arch, (Leading seaman and Jim's brother) & Mac)

Now this photo (there are a couple of photos of this obviously important celebration, but this is the best with dad in camera, instead of being behind camera!) has Lt. Col. Jim, Archie, Isabel (Archie's’ wife) & ‘Mac.’

From Lt. Col. Jim Mason and I quote:

“The photographs of Ray's birthday dinner were taken in the Strand Palace Hotel (again in Valletta) - the others are; my brother Archie and his wife Isabel, the old boy with glasses (Pop) was the owner of the hotel - We were very privileged customers there, because Ray took all the publicity photographs for the hotel brochure, as well as family photographs of some of the staff.”

The other -Mac- needs some explanation! He was one of gay couple who ran bar on Laskaris Wharf on the side of Grand Harbour (They called the bar "The Movement Inn") apparently a favourite haunt of bandsmen in those days, because it was just where the liberty boats docked. There is also a story regarding the wedding too, as Isabel had no family available on Malta, so Jim was best man and Ray gave Isabel away. I have photographic evidence of this.

Can you imagine the RN had 8 bands in the Med Fleet in those days, based in Malta and about 60 bands around the world? Now only 5, and all based in England. How times change.

One thing I forgot to mention and I need a big slap on the head for this, not thanking Bob Chumley. He personally welcomed me into the RMB fold at the 2009 RMB reunion in Adelaide. I was extremely nervous and not really knowing what to expect, but he firmly shook my hand and said to me “You may not have had much of a family in the past Steve but you have one now, you are ex-RMB family.” I wept, and will never, ever forget that moment.

Bob lived in Tavistock prior to migrating and Michael Hutton was his band master in Plymouth. I worked in Ernesettle Plymouth for many years from the early 1970’s and lived in Lydford and later Brentor, Devon, only a few miles away.

We always had an affinity with Plymouth, Stonehouse, Cornwall Beach etc. and both Jan (my wife) & I consider the West Country our ‘real’ home. We are now located in Cornwall just over the Devon border.

Best regards

Steve Adkins

PL15 9NB

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