The Theft of a Bread Roll and Egg on the Face
At the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review of July 1935 the massed lines of 157 Royal and Merchant Naval ships were drawn up in the Solent for the Sovereign – King George V – to receive the salute of his Navy and his Fleet. His Majesty’s Royal Yacht – the Victoria & Albert steamed along the lines of ships and the crews were called to attention to cheer the King and the Royal Family.
Following the Royal Yacht was RFA Maine (3) which since 1920 had been the Royal Navy’s Hospital Ship. For the Fleet Review her Red Cross symbols had been painted over and the Government had advised the Red Cross that she would be used as a Hospitality Ship for Government guests – Ambassadors, members of the House of Lord and Members of Parliament etc. The Guest list read like the great and the good of the day. The use of RFA Maine was due to the Government claiming that a chartered liner would cost too much. There were no outside caterers, the RFA crew were to be used to prepare and serve the food.
On RFA Maine everything was going brilliantly – until the food was served. Well, that’s what the problem was – there wasn’t any food service at all. In fact the food service broke down completely. Honoured guests having found a plate had to hunt through the galley and other areas to secure anything to eat. One Member of Parliament found a bread roll. He was lucky. He put his plate down with the roll on it while his attention was drawn elsewhere. When his attention returned to the plate the bread roll had been stolen. Someone else was eating it!
The ship’s operating theatre had been turned into a ‘lunch room’ and some guests made full use of the food on display. These were, however, a limited number.
Questions were asked in the House of Commons and Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell, First Lord of the Admiralty was forced to write personally to each guest expressing the deepest regret of the Admiralty. The Government’s embarrassment was reported at length in the national press.
A reporter from the Manchester Guardian news paper ‘phoned the German Embassy who very diplomatically stated the Ambassador and the Embassy staff did not have the slightest complaint to make. The Irish Free State High Commissioner in London Mr J. W. Dulanty was a guest on the Maine and his office advised he had no complaint to make. They went further by saying ‘He could not have been better treated.’ It is possible the representatives from German and the Irish Free State were in the operating theatre!
There was no official report as to what was said to the Master of RFA Maine or by the Master to Chief Steward.