Baptism By Bell
Leslie Willcox, a section head in Industrial Services and an ex Royal Navy man of 24 years experience recently attended a very special service with his wife Georgina at Holy Trinity Church Gosport for the christening of their son, Richard.
Since Leslie spent six of the happiest years of his naval service in submarines, he hoped to have been allowed to hold the service at HMS Dolphin, the centre for submariners in the UK and which is also the home of the Submarine Museum, but this was not possible.
However, he was allowed to borrow the bell of HM Submarine Tally-Ho to enable Richard to be baptized according to an old naval tradition. using the ship's bell as the font.
Leslie says The Reverend Capper was most helpful, and arranged for the baptism to be incorporated with the morning service he also invited the parents of a baby girl to use the "font". This delighted me as it was in keeping with the traditions of the Submarine Branch, and submariners generally.
We had to construct a makeshift stand for the inverted bell, as the proper holder was not available at HMS Dolphin, so we used our cat basket, suitably filled with fresh nappies, to hold the bell upright.
When I presented it to the churchwarden for placing at the altar, he remarked that it looked like a cradle, to which I replied, "well after all, He", nodding my head upward, "started life in a manager", to which he replied "did he?" obviously assuming that I was talking about Richard!
After the lovely service, I returned the bell to HMS Dolphin and the museum for safekeeping. It is now assumed that our christening will be the last time that it is so used, or indeed that it will leave the confines of the Submarine Museum.
I must say that I feel I was very fortunate to be able to have the christening in the Gosport area, and to find a padre so co-operative and understanding. I am truly grateful, both to him and to the curator of the museum.
Leslie spent two years on the Tally-Ho and met the late Captain 'Ben' Bennington, her illustrious wartime skipper on several occasions. Leslie says: "Of the 10 submarines that I served in, Tally-Ho, with her fantastic record, was the one I was happiest in.
Now Richard can grow up sharing that part of my life, through his traditional baptism, not only close to HMS Dolphin but actually in the bell that his father used to polish 30 years ago.