On Friday night, Salford veterans from The Royal Navy came together to celebrate The Battle of Trafalgar 217 years on.

The celebration took place on Friday at the Union Tavern on Liverpool Street, with a ceremonial toast made to Lord Nelson and his men alongside food and drink being served to guests.

As well as the veterans, the event was also visited by Salford’s Ceremonial Mayor, Anne-Marie Humphreys and the consort were present, showing their faces in support of the Royal Naval Association and the event.

Here’s some of the veterans involved and their stories from their time in the Navy.

Steve Caulfield:

Mr Caulfield is a member of the Pendleton Royal Naval Association, and ex-Royal Navy.

He spoke on the importance of the date to anyone related to the Navy. He said: “It’s a massive date in the Royal Naval calendar. This will be celebrated all over the country by all Naval people, serving or ex-serving.”

He has served the Pendleton Royal Naval Association for more than 35 years and he was one of the youngest members when he joined. He stated that all of the founding members of the association had ‘passed the bar’, meaning they had died.

Royal Navy veteran, Steve Caulfield handing out the toast shots of sailor’s rum to those attending the event. Image credit – Dan McNeice.

Whilst the Association may be Navy-based, Steve mentioned that it is open to veterans of other forces. He said: “We’ve all served our Queen and country… Once you’re a veteran, you’re a veteran.”

Giving his final thoughts, he described Lord Nelson as ‘the man’. He added: “He was respected, admired by everybody who served in the Royal Navy and I hope the general public as well.”

Anthony ‘Smudge’ Whitehouse:

Smudge is an ex- Pendleton Royal Naval veteran, and served from 1988 to 1994 as part of the, before moving to Cheshire later in life.

His Royal Navy story is slightly different to the others present on Friday, as Smudge revealed he was a closeted homosexual for a lot of his time in the forces, this being during a time where you could not be gay in the armed forces. He explained: “When I joined in 1988 at 16, I didn’t know if I was, or I wasn’t.

“By the time I was 22, when I volunteered to leave, I knew I was gay and that [the Navy] wasn’t a place for me because the law said it wasn’t a place for me at that time.”

Anthony ‘Smudge’ Whitehouse. Image credit – Dan McNeice

Despite this, Smudge described joining the Navy as ‘all he wanted to do’. However, he quickly realised that just because of who he was, the Navy was not a safe place for him.

He said: “I could’ve stayed, and I could’ve been caught, and then criminalised, investigated, had all my good conduct stripped away from me. Any medals I would’ve won would’ve been taken away from me and I’d have been discharged dishonourably.”

He was not alone, when asked if he’d heard similar stories, Smudge simply said ‘loads’. He said: “When I joined I was asked openly, have you ever had any homosexual tendencies. If you answered yes to that, the application would stop.”

He spoke on how times had changes since, with homosexuals in the Royal Navy now able to be themselves. He reflected: “In the military today, they’ve got lots of LGBTQIA+ groups that are thriving. There’s [also] massive review at the minute with a new charity called Fighting With Pride, they’re looking at the impact it’s had on modern day veterans.”

Phil Bowers:

Phil Bowers is the Landlord of the Union Tavern and an ex-army veteran who attended the event on Friday.

Phil joined the army in 1977 and did a total of 36 years of service, both as a regular and a reserve soldier travelling extensively around the world on operations and exercises. His last tour was in 2010 in Afghanistan.

Phil Bowers during his interview with us at the event. Image credit – Dan McNeice.

“From being 15 and doing 36 years round the world, seeing the world and working with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. Now I want to give something back in some way to reserve [those] who’ve not got as much as me.”

Speaking about the event and the pub, he said: “[We’re] trying to make this [the pub] a hub where veterans can come to feel safe, have a pint… to look after them and see that they’re ok.”

“We’re trying to change the ethos, the style of the pub. Tonight is a classic, you’re seeing guys that are older than me enjoying themselves in a safe environment, having a drink [and] having a laugh, reminiscing about old times.”

Salford’s Ceremonial Mayor, Anne-Marie Humphreys.


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