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The ‘Mad Bish’ rides again

23 January 2017
Former Royal Navy Chaplain the Reverend Mike Brotherton has made a surprise return visit HMS Raleigh and resumed his old role on parade.

Mike, who was one of the Royal Navy’s more colourful characters, retired from the Service in 2011 following a 27-year career, most of which he spent at sea serving on board around 25 ships.  

Nicknamed the ‘Mad Bish’, Mike served at HMS Raleigh on two occasions, firstly as an Assistant Chaplain in 1989 and then as the Church of England Chaplain leaving the establishment in 2003.

Now a volunteer for the RNLI in Milford Haven, close to his Pembrokeshire home, Mike came to HMS Raleigh as a surprise guest at the passing-out-parade to see one of his RNLI colleagues, pass out of initial naval training.  

He was invited by HMS Raleigh’s current Church of England Chaplain, the Reverend Ralph Barber, to ‘robe-up’ and recite the Naval prayer from the dais during the passing-out-parade.

I enjoyed my time here. I found it was one of the most rewarding Chaplains’ appointments in the Fleet. You really felt part of the training team and had an important role to play

Former Royal Navy Chaplain the Reverend Mike Brotherton

Speaking before the event, Mike said, “This is the first time I’ve been back to Raleigh, certainly since I’ve been retired and it’s still such a happy place.  I enjoyed my time here. I found it was one of the most rewarding Chaplains’ appointments in the Fleet. You really felt part of the training team and had an important role to play.  

“Ralph and I first met when he was a Supply Officer and he came to my Church at Culdrose. Not long after that he had the calling to go into the Ministry and I’ve not really seen him much since then.

“Reading the Naval prayer for me will be very, very touching because that was what I did regularly when I was here. It’ll be a bit of déjà-vue and it will touch my heart very much.”

Mike was awarded the MBE in 1993 for his pastoral work to all ranks. Explaining how he earned his nickname he said, “I bombed around on my scooter for most of my Naval career and I was renowned for doing crazy things. The highlight of my career was when I landed on HMS Ark Royal dressed as Charlie Chaplin in the Adriatic when the ship was in a war zone.  

“I did that to boost the morale. The great thing for me was I joined the Navy when I was 26 and in Chaplains’ terms that’s very young. When I look back at the photographs I was almost as young as the sailors themselves. I think that’s why I did those sorts of things, because when you’re young, you’re young and daft and when you’re older you can’t do them.”

Mike has continued to maintain links with the Royal Navy since his retirement. He said, “The good thing in Milford Haven is we do get occasional visits from Royal Navy ships and my dear friend Commodore Jamie Miller sends the sailors to me. Former sailors also write to me and visit me, so I don’t feel as if I’ve ever left.

“I hadn’t long been retired when I got a knock on the door from the RNLI press-gang to come and join the life-boat. I’ve got great admiration for our crew and the work that they do is phenomenal. The time that they give up to this voluntary organisation is second to none. Being part of the RNLI has been a replacement for my Naval career.”

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