Medical Assistants celebrate branch’s proud history with unique gathering at HMS Raleigh

Topic: CommunityEvents Storyline: HMS Raleigh

Medical Assistants pre-date Queen Victoria ascending to the throne, the birth of Royal Mail and the invention of photography.

But it’s taken until 2024 for the first symposium and mess dinner for the branch – known as sick berth attendants for 132 of their 191-year existence.

Spread over two days at HMS Raleigh, the event opened with professional briefs from the branch and career managers, the submariner, Commando Forces and UKSF cadres, plus training, while all present learned that ratings can know become medical officers under new policy.

More than 90 people attended the symposium including MAs at all rates, plus Guest of Honour Captain Lee Hazard and Capt Faye, both former Petty Officer Medical Assistants.

That was followed by a dip into the long, proud history of medical assistants in the Senior Service by event organiser, Warrant Officer 2 Stuart ‘Mac’ Wells-McCulloch based at Yeovilton.

He’s spent nine years studying the branch/cadre and its history – prompted by the fact that very few MAs, including Mac himself knew too much: “the medical assistant cadre seems to be mostly forgotten about unless in times of war and strife” (some 924 medical assistants have died in service). He hopes the symposium/mess dinner will forge a strong esprit de corps in his branch.

Mac ran through the birth of the branch to Operation Shader in Iraq, covering the Royal Marine MAs who supported the Royal Naval Division in WW1, hospital trains and the small rescue boats which helped victims of the Battle of the Atlantic in WW2, the first Commando raids, D-Day, and post-war operations.

Three times US Navy and RN Medics served in battle side by side: the China Boxer Rebellion (1900), Korean War (1951) and Telic 1 in Iraq (2003).

Veterans Mark Sumner, former Commando MA who received a Mention in Dispatches for his deeds in Iraq 2003 and Garry ‘Oggy’ Ogden, another former RM MA, also singled out in Dispatches for his actions in Afghanistan, delivered a brief on their experiences on tour.

Other veterans attended served in the Falklands, N. Ireland and first Gulf War.

To reinforce the emphasis on the branch’s proud history, each of the 11 tables at the mess  dinner – where junior ratings were permitted to wear black tie and dinner suit/dress – was named after one of the most highly decorated of 915 Gallantry and Honorific decorations earned by the MA Cadre including foreign decorations.

Everyone who attended was presented with an MA lapel pin and an etched whisky glass.

“Many old deployment friends met up to spin dits to each other and the new serving MAs,” said Mac. “New friends were also made keeping the legacy alive.”

The gathering concluded on the second day with a briefing by serving MA Charlotte Henry (Yeovilton) and LMA Robbie Griffiths (CHF) on their recent deployment experiences with HMS Prince of Wales and the Commando Helicopter Force.