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15th November, 2016

Mystery Cruise. London?

Mrs R and I took a direct flight back to Gatwick; meanwhile the tour in Tangier didn’t go exactly as planned apparently. Not much belly on the belly dancer I heard. Is this what happens when I slip away? The passengers still heard my voice over the public address when the ship sailed, my devilish sense of humour and a minor feat of technical wizardry did have them guessing for the next few days. It would have helped, however, if Captain Julian had docked the ship in the next two ports on the side which I announced in my morning broadcasts after arrival.

The purpose of the trip back to London was to attend a significant event. The 15th of November was not only my 65th birthday, a milestone in itself, but also the day on which I would receive the Merchant Navy Medal. The investiture took place in the library of Trinity House in front of an audience of around 100 invited guests. The thirteen recipients were given guidance as to the protocol prior to Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal arriving.

Sir Alan Massey made the welcome address before we entered the room individually to make the appropriate bow, walk two steps forward and have the Medal placed on our lapel. HRH, dressed in the livery of the Master of Trinity House, looked at my uniform and enquired as to whether I was still ‘working’? I explained that I had actually just left my command in order to attend and that there were 650 passengers somewhere south of the Mediterranean not knowing where they were or where they were going. She smiled, heartily.

The Right Honourable John Hayes MP, the Minister for shipping and ports, gave an address and Princess Anne closed the ceremony, after which we all moved into the Court Room in order to enjoy refreshments. This gave everyone an opportunity for everyone to meet the Princess and exchange a few words, she was quite charming. Helen, Richard and I were fortunate enough to spend a short time with her as Ian McNaught, an old colleague from my Cunard days and now the Deputy Master of Trinity House, escorted.

To say that it was a birthday to be remembered is stating the blindingly obvious, but it was indeed a moment in time that will make up for all those significant birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas's I’ve spent away from loved ones during my 47 years at sea.

Captain Philip Rentell

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