It’s not every day that the Royal Navy retires its flagship aircraft carrier so it was no surprise that when HMS Illustrious was scheduled for decommissioning it was felt appropriate that its passing should be marked with a party. What was more of a surprise was the scale of the event. With Royalty present, representatives of HM Government, Navy bigwigs, local dignitaries, and generations of crew past and present, the numbers really started to add up. In all there were to be 1800 people for a quayside canapé reception, followed in the evening by a dinner for 1200 in the main aircraft hanger onboard the Carrier.
On the Day
No sooner had that been successfully sent out, we then had to set up a field kitchen on the quayside equipped with everything needed to deliver the food service. From installing water and power to ovens and refrigeration, it was crucial not to have forgotten anything! Arriving at first light, we gave ourselves time to prepare the 9,000 canapés needed for the reception scheduled for 11.30 later that morning. No sooner had that been successfully sent out, and we had to turn our attention to preparing the evening meal.
The tides on the day were kind to us with low water leaving the gang-planks at a shallow angle as 1200 meals were carried aboard in hot cabinets, together with the crockery and cutlery needed to eat them.
With the ensign now lowered for the last time and the final party drawing to a close, team Vanilla could depart knowing that it was a job well done.