A group dedicated to the upholding of the memory of those who served in the Royal or Merchant Navies, and all those who supported them in the carrying out of this service.

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Recruitment

'Join the navy and see the world' claims one old recruiting poster whilst the one above offers 'good pay and prospects'. Unfortunately we can offer nothing so grand. It is true that we have been invited to travel abroad but this is usually at our own expense and is mostly confined to areas within Europe.

Like all re-enactment/living history groups, the Grey Funnel line is always looking for new members to take the place of those who have, for whatever reason retired from the group. Obviously the more members that we can put into the field does mean the better the display that we can mount. However even in the lean years we will not drop our standards just to increase numbers.

You are just playing at being sailors!

I suppose that in some ways this is as true with us as with any re-enactment group portraying historical people or events. Yes, many of us are not professionals, but we try our best to act in a professional manner. That is following the rules laid down by the Admiralty as to dress and behaviour just as those enacting the Army or R.A.F do. The last thing that any of us would wish to do is insult one of the many veterans that see us.

In our case it is true that we have no ships to 'play' with but is this so different from those groups that have chosen the R.A.F, Airborne or tank regiments? Where do those R.A.F. groups keep their aircraft? This is not said to belittle what they do far from it but just to point out that just because we have no ships the group should be regarded any the less. Well anyway one could go on but you get the picture.

What should be remembered is that with any service many men would not be employed as people would immediately think. So true it is with the navy. Even without being afloat there is a great deal that can be done to represent the Navy when it is remembered that large numbers served ashore as well as afloat.

Whom then do we welcome?

We are a group based on the navy so obviously an interest in nautical matters or re-enactment/living history would be a help to anyone joining but this is not important but a willingness to take part and learn is, after all we can probably teach you what you need to know.

As we are often in the public eye an ability to talk to the veterans or general public is an advantage but do not be put off if you do not fall into any of these categories as there is always someone about who will be able to help.

Generally we are willing to welcome anyone within the group, however in an attempt to convey the right impression when we mount a display we do try to enrol those that are willing to take on the persona of ratings rather than officers. This does not mean that we have a bar on the latter but the lower ranks did after all make up the majority of the service.

Is there a restriction on age?

The age of ratings in the Royal Navy surpassed often to a very great extent the age of any other service. We have in our files records of at least one man well into his sixties still serving in front line ships.

At the other extreme children often entered the service to become boy seamen or cadets and some of these were known to have been involved in action. Therefore where age is concerned we try to be as flexible as we possibly can providing that is, a proper sense of balance is maintained.

It should be remembered also that the service was made up of people of all ages and from all walks of life not just the young, so why should we not be the same. Often sailors were called back into service from retirement to feed the demands of the fleet doing those jobs perhaps less arduous and releasing the fitter ones to serve afloat.

Do we allow Women within the group?

Having women in the group is no problem, in fact we openly embrace them if you will pardon the expression. It is often the case that man and wife or boy and girl friend turn up to shows but only the boy can actively take part. This is not the case with us as the W.R.E.N.S, or more correctly, W.R.N.s, were an important part of the service. Their ability to take on almost all of the tasks originally carried out by men allowed those same men to join the fleet. In the same way we openly encourage couples to join if for no other reason than to get the women involved.

Officially they were not allowed to take part in combat and did not fire the weapons in anger but unofficially we know that they did. It was a case of 'needs must when the devil drives'.

WREN getting used to a Bren gun

Wren armourers were expected to be conversant with all sorts of weapons and here we have one such wren familiarising herself with a Bren gun. Although not a usual weapon for the navy it was used on certain operations by some forces connected with the service.

It must be said however that unlike many groups, the Grey Funnel Line will not allow women to dress up as men or masquerade as men simply to make up the numbers. This we feel is wrong for a whole raft of reasons and certainly gives the wrong impression. Fortunately as has already been mentioned ours is a service where there is little in the way of duties carried out by men that the Wrens could not or did not do.

What would we expect from you?

As with all such groups there are several things that would be expected from you, some sort of commitment being amongst the most important. Obviously we cannot expect you to attend every show although such members are a godsend. Regular attendance does give us the chance to pass on information of shows and to carry out training for the more specialised displays. It also generates what has become known as team spirit.

Members who say that they are going to turn up and then do not are the Bain of most groups and can cause all sorts of problems and cause ill feeling when they find that they cannot take part in certain displays. Remember that the more you put in the more you get out!

We also have to remember that we are for ever in the public eye and there is an age old conception that the navy was very fond of drinking, which has to be said is true, but probably no more so than any other service, and some individuals play on this point but I should point out that we do not. It is one of the few things that we will not tolerate as too much drink loosens the tongue and the brain so we expect a very high standard.

Uniform

There is nothing more pleasing than to see well turned out servicemen especially those in the 'Square Rig' naval uniform. It makes the member feel good when complimented by veterans and the public especially when the ladies come up and touch your 'dicky'. I am not being rude but it is a tradition for good luck.

As with any group, members will be expected to obtain the correct uniform and on this matter we are quite strict, after all it is what makes the sailor distinct from other services and the square rig is what the veterans and public expect to see therefore your uniform must conform to the service requirements this means that tropical rig is out as it was not worn in Britain at any time. Now there may be problems of obtaining what you need but this can probably be overcome to a certain extent within the group where a number of spare items are available. If not we have the ability to make most items.

Boys in Uniform

A uniform no matter from what service should always be worn correctly and with pride as it provides a reminder to those who once wore them in time of need. We take a great deal of care over ours and have to meet Admiralty regulations.

Location

We are probably luckier than many groups in that over the years we have become accepted by the Historical Dockyard at Chatham as one of their own re-enactment groups. This privileged situation allows us access to one of the country's former naval bases.

Although now sadly much reduced in size the dockyard can still lay claim to some very fine old buildings such as the covered slipway and the Commissioners house. There are also a number of exhibitions with more to be added so the setting is a fine one for us.