Norman (Spike) Armiger RIP

Back in September 2011 Maurice and Pauline Raven let us know that Spike had suffered a severe setback with his circulation problems and as a result had a leg amputated below the knee. Since then we have kept informed about his progress as the months rolled by; first by Spike and then Helen, his daughter.  

Sadly, Helen sent us the news we didn’t want to hear. After many months of fighting against his blood circulation problems, loss of limbs and extreme pain, Spike finally lost his courageous battle on 11th May 2012 at Whangarei Hospital in New Zealand.   Spike’s funeral was held on Wednesday, 16th May at St Saviour’s Anglican Church in Kaitaia, New Zealand’s northern most town and his family home since leaving the RNZAF after his 12 year service.   The service was attended by “Shorty” and Cath Grey, Athol Kitchingman and David Raven (Maurice and Pauline’s son). They represented the 83rd Entry on this sad day and spoke during the service. "Shorty" Gray provided a wreath on behalf of the 83rd Entry and, at Spike’s last request; he was ‘marched off’ accompanied by the Halton Bear.   An obituary and tribute will be posted under Service Records at a later date. Anyone wishing to contribute should contact John Burt.     

John (Terry) Davidson RIP

In March this year Ivor discovered the passing of 681817 John Davidson (sometimes known as Terry). He was Instruments, 3 Wing.   John’s widow Barbara told Ivor that John took ill in October 2009 with cancer and died on 18th December 2009. She was pleased that Ivor had contacted her and said that John always remembered his time at Halton.

Mike & Gwyneth Frost

In February, Ivor reported that he’d recently been in touch with Mike and Gwyneth. They no longer have access to a computer so the "Dog & Bone" is their method of contact.   Ivor went on to explain that Gwyneth, who will be 80 by the end of 2012, was recently taken into hospital with seizures and nearly died. Mike is incapable of looking after himself full time so he had to go into a care home, or "the dog kennels" as he calls them. Gwyneth is now back at home but not strong enough to cope with Mike yet. They have some home care when Mike is at home but it still leaves Gwyneth with significant work load. Their house is also not suitable to their situation so to help them they have been allocated a property in Cambridge. Their new home, in a nearly new complex, will be brand new accommodation which is best suited to their needs. The move means they will not have a car because Cambridge is a "Park & Ride" zone. Gwyneth admits that it’s perhaps time she gave up driving anyway. Mike and Gwyneth expect to be moving into their new home sometime early next month (March). Moving is a stressful time so Gwyneth will be helped by Mike's children.  

This is an update by Mal Woods following a visit by Ann and Mal on Friday, 13th April when they had lunch with Mike and Gwyneth in their new home. The complex where their new home is located is virtually new. There are two en-suite bedrooms, a kitchen and lounge and the rooms are decorated in bright colours giving a cheery feel to the whole place. There is 24 hour care. Whilst visiting, Ann and Mal chatted to several members of staff which left them feeling that Mike and Gwyneth are in good hands. However, Mike has lost a lot of weight and his inability to control his hands is cause for concern. He has booked an appointment with his neurologist to carry out checks for Parkinson’s disease. Gwyneth has also lost weight since her serious illness. Despite their all their problems both are their usual cheerful selves and once the sale of their home is finalised it will be one less thing to worry about.   Mike and Gwyneth have asked that we pass on their greetings to the 83rd Entry and although they will probably not be able to attend any more functions; they want everyone to know that they have enjoyed their times together with us at reunions and wish us all well.    

Ken Butcher

 After sending out the first notice about the 2012 Reunion, Ivor received an ‘e’ mail from Ken Butcher on 13th April to say that if he had "any spare" he'd be coming to the reunion. Ken went on to give his take on the current economic situation in Australia and highlighted some other issues that have had an impact on him and his family. An interesting read as follows.  

“Australia has weathered the economic storm better than most.  However prices seem to be rocketing up now - the high A$ is making many of our local industries uncompetitive and it seems that almost every day (here in Victoria particularly) another factory closes or lays off a chunk of the workforce.  Unemployment is still low by world standards (about 5.9% in Vic up from 5% 12 months ago) but is on the increase across the country. Meantime our Federal Govt is pushing ahead with a carbon tax which will further inflate pricing.  I'm starting to wonder if the move to Australia 26 years ago was as smart as it seemed at the time.  With us being part-pension, part self-funded retirees, income is not keeping up with the supermarket / power / gas, etc.  Everyone is complaining about the petrol pricing - tho' I suspect that you would be envious of our record high price today - I've just paid AUD1.58 / litre for standard unleaded, GBP0.99 on today's exchange rate. Life remains pretty good relatively I guess. I'm sure the reunion will be great, as usual. We'd love to be with you. 

Unfortunately our savings took a pretty big hit last year.  Our younger son who lives in Wellington NZ, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in March - as a consequence we did half a dozen trips to see him, Ngaire spending nearly 8 weeks initially. (His diagnosis came towards the end of my 7 weeks radiation therapy for prostate cancer so I did some tripping back & forth to complete that program - apparently successfully so far).  He too has had radiation, also chemo. He has his moments, having similar symptoms to a stroke victim (loss of control of left limbs - he can walk with difficulty for short distances but uses a wheelchair when out.  He has had to wind up his business (Plumber).  3 kids (10, 8 & 4) and aged 42 at the time of the diagnosis. Given 6-8 months to live he's well past that now and physically, he actually seems to have improved over the last 3 months. He is so damned positive that he pulls us up with him. There is no cure for this particular condition which has been pretty hard for us all to come to terms with.  

So, that is about where we are at.  We still try to get away with the caravan for the odd week or 10 days. I still have my (becoming elderly) Nissan Patrol which doubles as the caravan tug and my off-road driving & camping hack and I have had a few days away in the bush this year.  Ngaire has kind of "grown out" of camping & sleeping on the ground etc but loves the caravan.  I prefer the rough tracks, mud holes and the challenge of vehicle recovery, winching through mud holes and the camaraderie of like-minded people.  Apart from the fuel cost it is all pretty low-budget too!   Gotta go so, all the best for the reunion. Cheers Ken”

Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames

  Just before the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames, John and Angela Cheesbrough advised us that they would be taking part in the flotilla of boats on Sunday 3rd June 2012 from 2pm to 6pm. John reported that they have worked very hard to get into the Pageant so they expected to hear everyone cheering them on. Televised by the BBC, the event will be a spectacle not to be missed.  

The narrow boats - about 45 in number - were positioned between the so-called Recreational Motor Boats and the Barges; sailing five abreast in absolutely perfect straight lines.  The boat John and Angela were handling is a wide beam boat showing "St. John" on the side (as in St. John Ambulance) and the name "Mountbatten Crusader" on the stern.   Their vessel was the six hundred and seventy first in the flotilla. See picture below.  


The next picture is one taken by John looking astern from the “St. John” during one of the practice days. John says they've been up at 4 am on some mornings for these practices and they were done with the rest of the river's daily traffic all around them; but at least on the big day the river will be closed.  In fact, there won't even be a tide because the Thames Barrier, built to hold tides out, will be raised all day to keep the tide in!     


After the event Johnny Walker sent a note to John to say that he and Annie had watched the Flotilla coming up the Thames on TV in the vain hope of seeing their boat.  Apparently Johnny had printed off the position of the boats in the flotilla and had a photo of John and Angela’s boat, so they would recognise it.  He went on to say that Annie thinks she saw the vessel passing through but by then it was too late for Johnny to see the boat. Apparently he was asleep when it sailed through!!    Johnny went on to observe that John and Angela must have got wet, and that’s putting it mildly!! Also, he felt that the girls (and men) in the London Philharmonic Choir did a splendid job with Land of Hope and Glory, etc. He concluded that the whole day was excellent as viewed from the comfort of one's armchair (when in a waken state) but also commented that he thought the BBC coverage was awful!  

John Cheesbrough’s comments after the event were there was a brief glimpse of “St. John” passing the "saluting base", but that's of no real concern. The real disappointment was the almost total lack of TV coverage given to the vast armada of little boats.   The views from the bridges further upstream were incredible, all those hundreds and hundreds of barges, trip boats,  narrow boats, coastal craft, river cruisers (the Tupperware Navy!), the Dunkirk contingent, etc., stretched out for miles and streaming through all those bridge arches:  The biggest boat gathering the Thames has ever seen, possibly the World has ever seen.  But it didn't get proper TV coverage - and now it never will.  

Yes, John and Angela had a marvelous day, despite the rain and the cold (which went on till past nine!).   They were on the river for nearly fifteen hours, and enjoyed every minute but; spare a thought for those people in the open boats!         

Tony Gassner

 Tony recently corresponded with Ivor and advised that it isn't looking good for a visit the UK for the reunion as he has quit the building profession - in short, it’s not his flavour. If he can attend it will be at short notice. He also reflected on the horrible wet winter in SA, something like our English summer! Then went on to say not really, when it's good it's excellent. In SA they are having night temps as low as 4 deg C when the nights are clear, and with an active front about 12 deg. By the way, there is no central heating.

Tony also sent a couple of pictures to add to our gallery (See Tony's Service Record). The first is of him as a young officer in his RRhodAF uniform and the other is a more recent self portrait. As a ‘timeline’ they tell their own story!                                     


The next Triennial Reunion of the RAF Halton Apprentices Association will be held on Saturday 21st September 2013 at RAF Halton.  The format and arrangements will be the same as for the 2010 reunion.    As this is a member only event, please make sure that your membership subs are up to date.  Further details will be published in due course in The Haltonian magazine, which is distributed to members of the Association.  

John Burt