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“It’s good to get together” Orkney’s Armed Forces & Veterans Breakfast Club

By Adrian Hughes

September’s Veterans’ Breakfast, on the 30th, took place at the Stromness Hotel. This is the second time the group have eaten there and as before, the food and service was excellent.

One regular breakfaster is 72-year-old Orkney native, Robert Foubister. Originally from Deerness, he joined the Royal Navy as a Junior Radio Mechanic in 1966, aged 15, but was quickly selected for Artificer Training at HMS FISGARD, in Cornwall and became an Engineering Apprentice.

Following a five-year apprenticeship, Robert was selected to join the elite Submarine Service where he worked his way through the ranks until becoming an Officer in 1984. He continued to served until February 2006 and completed over 39 years in uniform.

“I did ask for an additional extension, to take me to the November, and when the Appointer asked why, I said I would have been in 40 years by then. I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be going on my 55th birthday”.

During his time, Robert served on Her Majesty’s Submarines Conqueror, Renown and Churchill, all now long decommissioned, and he was fortunate to visit several places around the world. But, the trip that sticks in his mind is one to Morocco:

“We left Gibraltar and were meant to be going into Casablanca; but, they wouldn’t let us in and tie up alongside, so we had to anchor off. So; there we were – in the eastern Atlantic – in a submarine – at anchor! [A very unusual event.] Laying at anchor, in the swell of the Atlantic, was NOT comfortable.”

The highlight of Robert’s long naval career was his one, “Command”:

“As an Engineering Officer, I didn’t take command of things, but in the early 1990s, I was the first Officer-In-Charge of the Explosives Handling Jetty at RNAD Coulport, in Loch Long.

“It was built at Hunterston, Ayrshire, and then towed up to Coulport by Tug. We had to go through a whole load of rigmarole, proving the systems, and then proving to the Americans that we could handle their explosives. One of them asked; why is the crane going so slow? To which the reply was; well, it’s following the rules that you laid down!”

Coulport is where some submarine armaments are stored, and Robert was in charge of the EHJ for about four years. Seagoing Royal Navy ships are traditionally commanded by seaman officers, but being in charge of this very large waterborne facility has many similarities to the role of a warship’s captain.

Robert has been coming to the breakfasts for about a year. He hadn’t realised there were so many military veterans in Orkney until he came along:

“It’s good to get together, just to have a chat; reminisce for a bit. The last time I was at breakfast, I met a chap and found out we were in the Radio Section at Faslane, at the same time. I don’t remember him there, but we knew the same people”.

Veterans from all three services come together on the last Saturday of each month, to enjoy each other’s company and maintain the camaraderie and esprit de corps they shared whilst serving.

Breakfasts usually run from 0930 – 1100 (ish) and happen at various locations around Orkney. However, as the next breakfast is scheduled for Saturday 28th October at, “The Smithy”, on Shapinsay, it will be a bit later.

We’re planning on being on the 0945 outward ferry from Kirkwall and a foot passenger return fair, without concessions, is £5.64. Booking ahead will be a good idea.

If you are a veteran, or their immediate family, you’re welcome to join us. We also welcome current members of the armed forces, Regulars and Reserves, as well of those who serve or served any other country.

More details are available on the group’s Facebook page or you can call or email Simon, their coordinator, on: 07909 640884. orkneyveransbreakfastclub@outlook.com

Come along and say hello; we look forward to meeting you.

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