Just a few months after HMS Excellent had taken the central ceremonial role of training and preparing for the Ceremonial Royal Funeral of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten, which took place on Wednesday 5th September 1979, HMS Excellent staged a wonderful pageant at Whale Island to celebrate its 150th anniversary most of which saw it as the  RN's Gunnery School. My wife and I were present at that pageant which was very professional.

Sadly, by that time two major RN professional courses had long since ceased which collectively put the fear of God into most lower deck personnel, if not a sizeable size of the upper deck on certain occasions.  These were the Gunnery Officers Long Course and the Gunnery Instructors Course for senior rates. There were other courses conducted in the establishment, one for gunnery SD officers [although one or two only attended the Long Course established for General List officers] and several for junior rates in various aspects of gunnery leading to a whole host of specialisation. The long course 'G' course finished in 1972 and the ratings 'GI' course in 1973. This was not unique to the gunnery branch but to the Operations Branch as a whole, for also at this time all similar courses in all OPS ROOM branches ceased affecting the W/T branch, the V/S branch, the EW branch, the TAS branch and the Radar branch.  Although it was made to look otherwise, a great deal of professionalism was lost by this dramatic change which nobody at the time fully understood. I qualified as an RCI in 1969 winning the Herbert Lott Prize for first place, and was a course instructor to two RCI [Radio Communications Instructor] qualifying courses which occurred annually including the 1972 course. We were very proud of our instructors badge which with two stars was indicative of excellence, adding to our daily wages one shilling [5p] which was 18¼ pa.  With so few instructors per branch, the navy didn't save very much by ridding the navy of its experts. Of course they didn't all go at once and some gave of their specialist best for many a long a year after the cessation in 1973, but when they went, the void left behind was manifest and profound.

This is the programme for that Pageant, minus just a couple of non-core pages and the front and back covers are of the same design. It is now nearly 34 years ago since the event was celebrated, and there are several words, venues and expressions which might bring back memories for you. Whatever, there is a naval history lesson within !

Good sailing.