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History

NCF History

Our Fellowship grew from a small group of officers and ratings who met in 1948 for prayer and Bible study in HASLAR Naval Hospital, Gosport. Their leader was Doctor James Watt (now Sir James) who had seen war service as a naval surgeon. After demobilisation he had a growing conviction that Christian leadership was needed in the Navy and while seeking the Lord’s will received an unexpected message that the Royal Navy understood he was a volunteer to rejoin – but this was, in fact, an administrative error! However, as the last date he could return to the Navy coincided with the end of his contract at Durham University’s teaching hospital, he saw that God was calling him to return. At the RN Hospital HASLAR, he and Wardmaster Lt Douglas Barnard formed a Christian fellowship for Bible study and prayer and were encouraged by the twelve present at their first meeting. The Director of Religious Films in the Rank Organisation presented them with a wooden plaque which read:

‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ – Proverbs 3:5&6. 

This verse became the fellowship text.

In 1949, Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Watt was appointed to HMS GANNET, a Naval Air Station in Northern Ireland, where another fellowship was started. As members of the HASLAR and GANNET fellowships moved they wished to stay in touch and remember each other in prayer so they held their first reunion in October 1950, at Capernwray in the Lake District. They became known as the ‘United Naval Christian Fellowships’. Regular newsletters were produced in the fellowship room at HMS GANNET until 1952 when the fellowship organisation moved south to London and printing was done by friends on a farm near Overton in Hampshire affectionately known as ‘The Buttercup Press’. Sir James Watt was active in the affairs of the fellowship until his retirement in 1977 as Surgeon Vice Admiral from the position of Medical Director General. In 1955 the UNCF established an office in Kingston upon Thames. It moved to Richmond in 1959, to Fareham in 1961, Gosport in 1966 (where UNCF combined with the Royal Naval Christian Union in 1968 and changed its name to the Naval Christian Fellowship), then over to Portsmouth in 2005 and then in 2010 to its current location within HMS Nelson in the Naval base at Portsmouth.  In 1968 UNCF combined with the Royal Naval Christian union (which was run by Royal Sailors Rests – Aggie Westons) and changed its name to the Naval Christian Fellowship.  NCF maintains links with Christians in other navies worldwide and in 1993 NCF, with the support of the Netherlands Navy, launched the European Navies Christian Link-up, which includes the navies of 19 European Navies. NCfs aim and purpose remains the same as Doc Watts original vision, which was essentially to support,  encourage and disciple Christians in their work and witness within the RN, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary.