Friday, 27 September 2013

Baptised on a submarine - and a PM's wife insulted!

Tonight marks the 8th reunion of the crew of HMS Churchill at a posh dinner and dance in Glasgow. Churchill, named after the former prime minister of the UK, was one of the first British nuclear powered submarines of the Warspite class. Whilst I was never a member of her crew (waaaayyy too young for that!), I do have a minor claim to fame with the boat - I was apparently the first child to be baptised on board her.

My father was a submariner, and had previously served on board a Valiant class submarine called HMS Warspite, the second of the class which was launched on September 25th 1965, and which went into service on April 16th 1967.

My nan, Jean Currie
At Barrow-in-Furness a reception was held to celebrate the achievement of Warspite entering service. As a part of this, my grandmother was invited along by my father, along with many other relatives of the crew. The guest of honour was the wife of the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, the leader of the British Labour Party, and at one point, during the reception in the submarine's Ward Room (Naval jargon for the officer's mess), the story has it that my father took my Ulster Unionist supporting Glaswegian nan to introduce her to the Prime Minister's wife. The conversation went as follows:

"Mum, I'd like you to meet Mrs Wilson".

"And which Mrs Wilson is this son?".

"This is the Prime Minister's wife, Mum".

"Oh, that Mrs Wilson", she replied haughtily, and immediately turned round and walked away!

My christening - mum & aunt Sheila
As part of the new Churchill class of submarine, HMS Churchill was in fact just another Valiant class boat with a few extra bells and whistles, and was herself launched on December 20th 1968, entering service in July 1970. When Warspite was involved in a Cold War incident in late 1968 (with my father on board) her fin was actually so badly damaged that it had to be replaced with that of Churchill at Barrow, when it was still under construction.

My father was assigned on board Churchill. A few months later I was born in Northern Ireland, whilst my dad was setting off from Helensburgh on his first tour of duty with the boat - he actually received the telegram about my birth whilst at sea. Upon his return, in grand naval tradition I was then baptised on board the vessel in January 1971, with the ship's bell used as the font. I still have the baptismal certificate, as well as images from the day - one of those images is actually in this months's Family Tree magazine in the UK (see right)!

My christening cert

Last night my wife came across the Churchill reunion dinner announcement online, which got me interested in having another wee forage online, and after a bit of digging I was astonished to find that there is now a website about the Churchill at Even better though, the site has two videos depicting the launch of both vessels, as hosted on the British Pathe site:

Mrs Wilson launches 'Warspite' (1965)

And Nuclear sub launched (1969)

So now I know who my nan insulted with a spot of Bridgeton class!


  1. Unique. Very unique! Lovely photos and story, Chris. Cheers!

  2. Thanks Celia - I try to be different! :)