"THE QUEEN, GOD BLESS HER"
The Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda was formed in 1991 by a small group of ‘like minded people’ who met at the end of the working day to toast the Queen and reinstate the Royal Navy’s tradition of a daily tot of rum which had been discontinued in 1970.
Very soon, others began to join the ‘circle’ and the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda developed into an organization recognized not only in Antigua but worldwide. The Tot Club formalized itself by writing some rules known as Standard Operating Procedures. It is only possible to join the Tot Club in Antigua and well over 500 have joined to date. An aspiring member has to be invited to join by an existing member and pass though a joining routine which includes a test on Royal Navy history.
The Tot Club meets at 6 pm each evening when guests may be introduced, announcements made relating to points of interest and a reading from Royal Navy history pertinent to that day. The reading is followed by a toast which is different for each day of the week, however, all toasts end with the words ‘…and the Queen, God Bless Her’.
Once established, the Tot Club set itself various aims which include welcoming yachtsmen and women to English and Falmouth harbours, fostering good relations within the community and entertaining members of Her Majesty’s warships when they visit Antigua. In 2008, the Tot Club had the honour of hosting HRH Prince William to lunch when he was a serving officer in HMS Iron Duke. Many prominent people are members of the Tot Club such as the former commanding officer of HMS Ark Royal, commodores of famous yacht clubs such as the Royal Ocean Racing Club and many other renowned sailing personalities.
Occasionally, Members are subject to a Court Martial for any manner of misdeeds which may range from the abuse of alcohol to failure to bring pork pies when returning from the U.K.. A Member subject to a Court Marshall is guilty until proven guilty and, although an attorney may be employed by the defendant, the attorney could himself be subject to a Court Marshall if he puts up too vigorous a defence. A good defence attorney will ensure his client receives a sentence greater than that proposed by the Court. Penalties vary from being forced to drive a couple of miles, windows closed and air conditioning off, with one of the local tramps as a passenger to being hanged from a tree in Nelson’s Dockyard and pelted with rotten fruit and eggs.
Unique to the Tot Club is its White Ensign burgee. The White Ensign is very jealously guarded by the Royal Yacht Squadron as the only club in the world whose members are permitted to wear the Royal Navy’s White Ensign. The Tot Club obtained consent from the Admiralty to incorporate the pre-1801 White Ensign into its burgee and it is proudly flown from members’ yachts. The Tot Club also obtained permission to hoist the White Ensign in Nelson’s Dockyard on special days such as the Queen’s birthday and anniversaries of famous British naval successes such as the Battle of Trafalgar. The Flagstaff in Nelson’s Dockyard was restored by the Royal Naval Tot Club.
The Tot Club is not only a social club, it also does good works within Antigua including donating funds to worthy causes and keeping clear the walking trails through the National Parks. These forays into the National Park are known as the ‘Tot Club Keep Fit Class’ and their motto is ‘Destroying Nature to Preserve History’. During the Classic Yacht Regatta, the Tot Club directs the Parade of Sail and often involves itself in other activities such as Sailing Week. Several years ago, a U.K. magazine listed the Tot Club as the world’s second most prestigious yacht club.