Mike Ball (4500)

April 15, 2020

Mike Ball (4500)  23rd December 1943 -11th April 2020.

Mike Ball sadly “crossed the bar” following a long period of ill health.  Coming from Warrington, Lancashire, he was at Mercury for two years, between January 1958 and December 1959, as a member of Rodney Division.

On leaving Mercury he joined the Stewards’ Branch (later joining the Catering Branch) of the Royal Navy, first going to sea in the carrier HMS Centaur.  He went on to serve on the cruiser Belfast and with 800 Squadron aboard the carrier Eagle, before volunteering as a submariner, undertaking his specialist training at HMS Dolphin in Gosport. He went on to serve in a number of submarines, mostly with the 7th Squadron based in Singapore. After another spell at Dolphin, he joined the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarineRepulse, one of the 10th Submarine Squadron based at Faslane. Mike later returned to General Service and found himself back in Singapore, appointed to the frigate Mermaid. During his time on Mermaid, the vessel was sent to Saigon to evacuate any remaining UK citizens as the North Vietnamese approached.  Although all expatriates were ultimately evacuated by air, Mermaid remained in port, sailing only a short time before the city fell.  On returning from Singapore, he taught catering ashore for a time before joining the frigate HMS Diomede. He retired from the RN in 1983.

In civilian life, Mike joined Kings College Wimbledon as Head of Catering.  In 1994 he had a spell at Malvern College before setting up catering services for Hereford Cathedral to coincide with the opening of the Mappa Mundi exhibition. In 1996 he was approached by the Ministry of Defence to take over as OC Catering at RAF Rudloe Manor and, from there, he moved to RAF St Mawgan.  In 2000 Mike joined Catering Support at RAF Innsworth, before transferring to Southwick Park (formerly HMS Dryad) in 2004 when it became the Defence School of Policing and Guarding. Barbara and he finally settled in Hayling Island the next year.

Mike joined the MOBA Committee in 1986 and took over the challenging role of Social Secretary in the following year, where his knowledge and contacts in the catering business served him (and us) well.  In 1995, due to work pressures, he temporarily stood down, but was able to return to the role in 1999.  From then on, he continued to organise our social events, ably supported by his wife Barbara, until the Association disbanded in 2019.  Even then he remained part of the Advisory Group.

A personal note.  As can be seen from his obituary, Mike’s contribution to all he was involved with, whether it was the submarine service, or the catering business, ashore and afloat, was enormous.  This was no less so than with his commitment to the Mercury Old Boys’ Association Committee over more than 30 years. As soon as one annual reunion was over, with the assistance of Barbara, he began to plan the next.  His attention to the smallest detail ensured that each “bash” was as good as, or even better than, the last.  Woe betide any hotel that got things wrong, whilst he also kept the rest of the committee very much on our toes and involved.

Beneath his gruff persona was a kindly caring man who cared hugely about the Association, the legacy of our old school and above all, our members.  He often regaled us with interesting and usually amusing stories of life in the submarine service and of his challenges within the bureaucracy of the MoD.  Even when he was living as far afield as Cornwall or Gloucestershire, he would invariably attend our meetings in Hampshire.  Throughout his long period of deteriorating health, he remained stoic and retained his sense of humour (often at the expense of those of us from the Merchant Navy!). Even during his illnesses, he remained fully committed and ensured that our final reunion, in 2018, was an outstanding event to be remembered.

I would also, especially, like to pay tribute to his wife, Barbara, who supported him and the Association in so many ways.  I regard them both as close personal friends and shall remember him with huge affection.  I know I speak for all other ex-committee members in saying we will miss him greatly.  We will remember him properly at a memorial service, to be arranged by his family, once the Covid 19 crisis has abated.  In the meantime, our thoughts and condolences are with Barbara at this time.

David Parsons, 4709, Former Chairman, MOBA