14th Reunion at Honiley, Warwickshire
17th to 18th June 2005
The 14th Annual 83rd Entry Reunion took place during the weekend of the 17 & 18 of June 2005 at the Corus Hotel in Honiley near Warwick. This was a new venue for the reunion after 12 years of going to the Southlands Hotel in Sheringham, which closed in 2004.
Needless to say, as the regular attendees arrived at the new venue they were all wondering what to expect. Most admitted they were sad to see the passing of our trips to Southlands Hotel because at Sheringham we had exclusive use of the hotel and Tony and Estelle were great hosts. Honiley had a lot to compete with to achieve satisfaction and this time we were sharing the hotel with a wedding party and other guests. How would it all shape up?
The Corus Hotel itself is an old pub that over the years has been extended extensively to provide more accommodation and function rooms. From the front the ivy clad structure looks quite attractive.
On arrival and after check-in we gathered outside the hotel bar and sat on strategically located table / benches where everyone could enjoy cold drinks and chat on a very hot and sunny day.
Enjoying drinks on a very hot summers day
Whilst renewing old acquaintances the first thing we noticed was the number attending this year had increased to 38, despite some of our regular members being missing due to family and health reasons. Our best wishes go to Dave and Jean Smith during a difficult time. Also, to Fred Finlay who lives in France and was working in the UK prior to the reunion and had planned to attend this year. Fred had to return home for family reasons.
On “parade” for the first time were Anne and John (Ginge) Fenwick (3 Wing, Armourer) and Irene and Mac Payne (1 wing, Engines), assisted by their son Kevin. They were all warmly welcomed by the regular “Entry Family” and an immense amount of catching-up was the order of the day, particularly over an excellent dinner on Friday evening and afterwards in the bar and outside in the grounds.
Saturday saw everyone eat a hearty breakfast and then take off to explore the surrounding area.
A lot of us went into Warwick and thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Castle. It's a magnificent, well preserved structure and there was a lot to see and do. Apart from visiting the restored pumping house and the excellent exhibitions in the castle rooms, etc., there were displays in the castle grounds with archery, birds of prey flying and probably most enjoyable, a superb show by the band of the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers.
The Band of the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers
Prior to the band display, Janet and I had a brief chat with a “very young” Lieutenant who was circulating amongst the crowd with other officers and men (dressed in combat uniform). It appears that although the Regiment is now one of four amalgamated into the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, they still keep their identity. Warwick is still regarded as a central recruitment area and they often make public visits to show their long standing allegiance to the town.
When the Lieutenant asked about our visit to Warwick we mentioned that the RAF Halton Apprentices 83rd Entry were in town for the annual Reunion. On taking our leave, he very kindly asked us to convey to our members the Regiment’s good wishes for an enjoyable reunion.
Pre - Reunion Dinner drinks on an extremely hot evening
In the evening after pre-dinner drinks outside, members and their ladies formed up in the bar at 7pm and we were piped into Dinner in the Warwick Suite by Johnny Walker. Eventually, after a slight cock-up with numbers and table plans, everyone got seated.
The air conditioning was running at full blast but apart from those sitting underneath the outlet, we were all wilting from the excessive heat of the day. Even Ivor agreed that the gentlemen could remove their jackets on this occasion.
Johnny Walker piping us into dinner
As is customary, Ivor called everyone to order and we all remembered those of our Entry who have departed to a new life. Johnny Walker said grace in his inimitable style and as usual it was laced with humour.
We also announced that the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers had sent their best wishes to members for an enjoyable Reunion Dinner and this was much appreciated by all.
Dinner was then served.
The food was enjoyed by everyone although the courses were served a lot slower than one would normally expect. Over coffee Ivor did his usual updates on Entry admin matters and raised the issue of planning for next years 50th Anniversary Reunion (see separate page). Ivor then surprised us all when he introduced Anne Fenwick as our after dinner speaker.
Bearing in mind that this was Anne’s’ first introduction to 83rd Entry Reunions it says a lot for her courage to get up and speak to an audience she had only just met. However, Anne is a college lecturer so she was undaunted by the experience and her speech was an excellent and telling insight into what the Halton Apprentice legacy means to her, having lived with “Ginge” for a good many years.
It seems that Anne has discovered many traits and quirks of character that can be found in ex. Brats by the folks who come into contact with them as they progress through life after graduating from Halton. She also noted that both the qualities instilled in us at Halton and the resulting downsides (for others) remain largely unnoticed or totally ignored by ex. Brat’s for the rest of their lives (it was probably Ginge that Anne was referring too, not the rest of us!).
As all this “confidential” information was revealed it became abundantly clear that the ladies truly empathised with Anne and more worryingly, each revelation was greeted with knowing looks and great humour by our partners. Quite what the lasting effect will be on our members as they each set out on their chosen path in retirement is, as yet unknown. Needless to say, Anne sat down to a great deal of applause for entertaining us all (maybe not Ginge) with her observations and thoughts about living with an ex. Brat.
Finally, it was time for the group photograph with everyone helping to clear sufficient space in the room to get everyone into the picture. Considering it was getting late and we had all generally over indulged, quite a few of the folks were yawning and eager to get to bed.
However, we managed to get a reasonable result apart from unwanted effects from the “downlighter spots” and contrasts caused by bright yellow walls and an orange carpet! (see result below).
Long gone are the days when it was well into the early hours before the bar emptied out.
Surprisingly, most folks arrived at breakfast on Sunday at a reasonable time and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Tony and Mary Anderson-Dixon had already left early with Pat O’Shea to get to Gatwick in time for Pat to catch his flight back to the USA. For the rest of us, after a robust breakfast, checking-out and loading cars we each said our goodbyes and promised to meet again in 2006 for the 50th Anniversary (see special report).