Cutting-edge destroyer HMS Dragon was presented with a magnificent character-filled cake to mark her commissioning into the Fleet.
The elaborate piece of confectionary was produced by the RN’s ‘cake-meister’ WO1 Jon Boreham, who’s produced such masterpieces for more than two dozen years.
WELCOMING a brand new warship into the bosom of the Royal Navy is a moment of pride and wonder for all concerned.
And so it was when HMS Dragon was formally commissioned into the Fleet a few days ago.
Excited as we were by 8,500 tonnes of stealthy grey messenger of death, guns, Mach 3 missiles and all that, our attention was rather drawn to the magnificent commissioning cake.
No, not because it was cake… but because of its wonderful tableau of icing (not a phrase we often use…).
The chippy and his team complete the name board
It seemed almost criminal for ET Mark Soldiew, the youngest sailor aboard the Type 45 destroyer, to thrust a knife into the thick regal and royal icing, aided by Liesl Houston, the wife of Dragon’s Commanding Officer Cdr Darren Houston.
But plunge the knife they did in the finest traditions of the Senior Service.
Thankfully, before this ‘cake vandalism’ (another phrase we don’t often use) occurred, LA(Phot) Jason Ballard took a few shots of it – so you can admire it.
Dragon's CO salutes while one of his ship's company tries to keep the escaped beast in check... and the chef finishes painting the battle honours board
The cake is the work of WO1 Jon Boreham, currently working in the Operational Stress Management and Trauma Risk Management team at Navy HQ on Whale Island.
Jon’s been baking and decorating cakes for 26 years – which means he’s quite well known when important events are looming in a ship’s calendar, especially as it seems to be a dying trade in the Service.
When Dragon asked for Jon’s help, he popped aboard the Portsmouth-based ship to chat with the ship’s company who had ideas of a square cake, ship’s badge, battle honours. All, says Jon, “a little bit standard, so to speak. So took the design a step forward. Somewhere had to be a Dragon…”
Sixteen hours baking one fruit cake and 30 hours decorating it later (with the odd break for the day job, Easter holiday) and hey presto: one magnificent commissioning cake.
'Cake vandals' ET Mark Soldiew and Liesl Houston, the wife of Dragon's CO Cdr Darren Houston, reluctant begin to cut into the cake watched by Susie Boissier, the ship's sponsor, and her husband Vice Admiral Paul
So what’s going on in it? Well, the dragon has escaped from its lair (top right) and burst forth on to the cake, to the despair of one matelot.
Some people might have been content with that, but not Jon.
“There needed to be a bit more going on, so that people can see a story,” he explains.
So, top left… Three sailors proudly hold the (graffiti-strewn) name board aloft made by the ship’s chippy, there are a couple of stokers messing around with hoses, and a medic’s at the ready at the back just in case things turn a bit messy…
The main cake, with chefs all over it adding the finishing touches and the captain saluting, completes the story.
The rich fruit cake itself – the 190-strong ship’s company are still working their way through it now, and yes, it does taste as good as it looks… – weighed in at 40kg (88lb or more than six stone!).
It’s covered in regal (roll-out) and royal icing and everything, including the little characters, is edible.
“I’m glad the ceremony went well for the ship and that I could play a small part in that process,” says the senior rating. “My next challenge: HMS Queen Elizabeth. Bring it on!”