Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Naval chaplain makes 99-year-old veteran's wish come true

20 October 2017
The Chaplain at Britannia Royal Naval College has helped make a 99-year-old veteran’s dreams come true.

The Reverend Keith Robus RN travelled to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to meet up with his old friend, Ernie Searling. 

Quantum, Ernie’s care home, invited some of their residents to make a wish to coincide with their 25th anniversary. Ernie’s wish was to step on to a Naval ship again and meet up with his old friend Father Keith.

The two first met when Keith was first ordained working in a parish in Harrow, West London. Ernie and his wife, Mary, who died in 1992, were part of the congregation. 

Mary felt sorry for the young looking Curate and invited him round to tea, which was a start of their long-lasting friendship, which included looking after Keith’s dog.

During their day in Portsmouth Ernie and Keith looked at HMS Victory and HMS Warrior and as a surprise were taken on a boat tour of the dockyard.

It’s a real joy to come here and be with young people and the Navy again

Ernie Searling

The boat sailed past the destroyers and frigate alongside there, but the highlight for all had to be viewing from the water the new Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth

Ernie said: “It’s a real joy to come here and be with young people and the Navy again. I looked in the water; everything that hit me in the eyes was the cleanliness of the water. 

“The harbour control here must be jolly good. I thought the new carrier was a terrific ship, but I really thought it was too big.”

Ernie signed up for the Royal Marines the day the Second World War was declared, hence his blue beret, and started his military career in Portsmouth. 

As part of his visit he was presented with a new beret representing the current Monarch to go alongside his original one, which marked his service under King George VI.

“They are both good monarchs to serve under and a darn good country to fight for.” said Ernie

Keith has kept in touch with Ernie throughout the years exchanging letters and Christmas Cards. In December 2016 Keith paid Ernie a surprise visit and found out that he was fast approaching 100.

Keith said, “It was a tremendous joy to be able to show Ernie about the Dockyard and to show off some of the new ships in the Royal Navy.

“He is a very loving man, an exemplary Christian and it was marvellous of Quantum Care to make the whole evolution possible.”

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.