50th Anniversary (Graduation) Reunion at the Lambert Arms, Aston Rowant, Bucks
11th to 13th June 2009
Click on Commemorative Reunion Programme to see contents
This year being the 50th Anniversary of our graduation a new venue had to be found to accommodate more people than could be handled by The Peacock Inn at Henton. The Lambert Arms was selected on a recommendation from the owners of The Peacock and following a recce by Ivor and Margaret John and Janet and John Burt to look at the facilities and taste the food.
Thursday, June 11th 2009
Earlier in the day Ivor had arranged a special visit to the RAF Uxbridge WW2 Bunker (11 Group Operations room) starting at 13.00. Those members who went on the visit to the Operations Room agreed it was excellent, informative and interesting and well worth the trip. To find out more, follow the link to http://www.raf.mod.uk/battleofbritainbunker/
From late afternoon onwards members, including Janet and myself, started to arrive and check-in for their stay at The Lambert Arms, just off Junction 6 on the M40.
As is customary after settling into our rooms, it was then time to have a cup of tea (or something stronger) and meet and greet old friends in the Bar or on the Terrace. This year there were several new faces to welcome and introduce to the Entry Family. Coming from overseas were Errol Hovelmeir, Dick and Ann Woodward and from the UK Stan Dudley, Eddie and Sylvia Woodgate, Dave and Irene Lethbridge, Dave Sexton and John Chessbrough.
This all took place before several of us had to get ready for the drive to RAF Halton for the Band Concert which started at 7 o’clock in St. George’s Church.
RAF Halton Band Concert
Click on to the image to see larger poster
The band concert had been arranged by Ivor as part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations. It was brilliantly performed by the RAF Halton Area Band with 30 plus musicians led by Michael J Pegram ARCM FVCM and lasted for about 2 hours. Interspersed in the concert programme there were great piano solos, which we all look forward to, by Mark Bishop (son of Steve Bishop – 83rd) and superb vocals and monologues from Cherry-Anne Evans.
Whilst commemorating the 83rd Entry Graduation in 1959 this event was also open to the public with proceeds going to charity. For those who attended it was very entertaining and a real treat to be there. A selection of pictures taken during the concert follows:
The Entry Windows make a marvelous back-drop. Click on image to enlarge.
Friday, June 12th 2009
The day started with a fine breakfast in the Inn restaurant after which members set out to either travel to RAF Northolt for a pre-planned visit from 10.00 am onwards or to other places of personal choice. Disappointingly, a parallel visit planned for RAF Benson had been cancelled without informing Ivor, because of a ‘cock-up’ in the arrangements by Benson Station Admin people!
RAF Northolt Visit
The RAF Northolt visit got underway with a drive down the M40 / A40 in good weather. We passed the famous Polish War Memorial as we turned off the A40 and made our way down West End Road to the Station Main Entrance. On arrival at the Guardroom we were joined by John Thirkettle and Richard Ellis, friends of Ivor then we all checked-in through security. Sqn. Ldr. Richard Willis, our Liaison Officer arrived and we were convoyed in our cars through the station precincts where much new building work is being done; to a car park on the airfield where we then boarded a coach for our journey to various parts of the Station.
We started with a visit to the Tower to see RAF Air Traffic Controllers at work controlling incoming aircraft (mainly civilian!) in the very busy airspace (Heathrow Control Zone) around Northolt. Then we went across to the hangars where 32 Squadron airframes are located. We were able to view the VIP HS125’s, A109’s, etc. From the hangars we went to the Operations Block and were taken on a tour through the VIP Lounge where I got to sign the Visitors Book on behalf of the group. It was just amazing to look through the Visitors Book and see all the famous names that are in there.
We then went into the Polish Room, a room dedicated to the Polish Air Force Squadrons and the airmen that flew from Northolt during WW2. It was truly amazing to be told that this room (mainly decorated in red and orange) with a small commemorative box on the wall containing Polish soil, was sacrosanct to the Poles and anything done within the room has to be approved by the Polish Embassy. As you would expect, the walls are covered with framed photographs of the Polish Aces.
Whilst in the Polish Room, Richard Willis drew our attention to the small building out on the airfield where most of the records are held for the Polish Armed Forces that served in the UK during WW2. It is staffed by two ladies and they can research the archives for individual Polish servicemen. We introduced Stefan Chmielowski to Richard, as our own 83rd Entry Pole, much to Stefan’s surprise!
Richard invited Stefan and Jane to stay behind after the main visit so that he could take them to visit the Polish Archivists and see if there were any records held about his father.
The best bit for Stefan and Jane was to discover that records regarding his father, who was a Wing Commander, are held in the Polish Archives. They have made an application to get copies of Wing Commander Chmielowski’s records so the family can fill in as much detail as possible about his service record. Up to this point, Stefan knows very little about his father so he and Jane are excited to discover more. So are we!
The group then went outside to have a photograph taken in front of the Spitfire Memorial (complete with Polish squadron markings!) by the station photographer. In the group below are:
Back Row L to R: Dick Woodard, Dave Smith, Richard Ellis, Stefan Chmielowski, Mike Tuckman, S/L Richard Willis, Dave Green, Bryan Canton, John Burt
Front Row L to R: Susan Canton, John Thirkettle, Jane Chmielowski, Pat O’Shea, Jim Waddington, Sylvia Waddington, Maureen Green
Not in the photo is Ann Woodard.
All those not involved in the visit to RAF Northolt had free time and dispersed to several locations. Margaret and Ivor John, Maureen and Brian Fairclough and Janet Burt all headed off to Oxford for the day. Reporting on their return, they had enjoyed the Park & Ride experience into the city centre to avoid a parking nightmare and spent a great day seeing the sights and visiting the shops.
After the daytime activities and a brief stop in the bar for a cup of tea or something a bit stronger, it was time for everyone to get ready for the 30 minute trip back to RAF Halton for a visit to the Trenchard Museum at 6 o’clock. Many thanks to Min Larkin and Francis Hanford who specially opened the Museum for us.
L to R: Pauline Raven, Mike Tuckman and Jean Smith
L to R: Francis Hanford, Jack Knoops, Ivor John and Min Larkin hamming it up for the camera
We then assembled at 7 o’clock at the Henderson Airman’s Mess for Pre-Dinner drinks prior to enjoying a replica meal taken from the original 83rd Entry Graduation Dinner Menu in 1959.
The reunion spirit was immediately formed with the usual individuals misbehaving and also forgetting what menus they had ordered etc. After dinner, Ivor thanked the Head Chef Nick Mayor for an excellent meal (with a modern take) that had provoked mixed memories for those of us who had attended the Graduation Dinner back in 1959. Also thanks to the mess staff who had looked after us very well.
Ivor then went on to perform the usual "Parish Notices" to keep members up to date with news about our other members he has been in touch with during the year. The occasion went well and everyone enjoyed being back at our roots.
From Left: Dave and Maureen Green, Pat O’Shea, Ann and Dick Woodard
From Left: Stan Dudley, Maurice and Pauline Raven, Errol Houvelmeir, Dave Sexton?
From Left: Sylvia and Jim Waddington, Jack Knoops, Sue and Brian Canton
From Left: Mike Tuckman, Heather Stone, Johnnie and Anne Walker, Dave Stone
From Left: Stefan Chmielowski, Jean and Dave Smith, Mary and Mike Powell, Jane Chmielowski
From Left: John (taking photos) and Janet Burt, Ivor and Margaret John, Dave and Angela Taylor
Saturday, June 13th 2009
The day started with the Entry family gathering for another leisurely and hearty breakfast in the restaurant. It was also time to make plans for the day although we would have to remember to be back in good time to get ready for the evening and our formal Reunion Dinner.
Ivor was uptight as usual about the dinner arrangements so he planned to stay at the Inn for the day ‘adopting his organising mode’ so Margaret, Maureen and Brian Fairclough and Janet and I took off to Hughenden Manor near High Wycombe to visit the former home of the Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and his wife Mary Anne. It is now under the care of The National Trust and is well worth a visit. Whilst there we bumped into Stefan and Jane Chmielowski – great minds think alike!
Brian and Maureen, Margaret and Janet (trust Brian to find the naughty bit!)
On returning from our trips we went to our rooms to prepare (and maybe have a quick snooze) prior to the evening dinner.
At 7 o’clock we gathered in the Bar or on the Patio for pre-dinner drinks and did the usual meet and greet with those members who had arrived during the day. As is customary, at 20 minutes past the hour we assembled outside to march-in to Dinner in the Oxford Room, led of course, by Johnny Walker our Entry Piper.
On this important occasion we were joined by our special guest, Wing Commander Richard Morin BA DMS, OC Support Wing, RAF Halton (centre).
Marching in to Dinner behind Jock the Peeps
We took our places at the tables that were marked by special anniversary name plates along with a copy of each member’s attainment record card from RAF Halton. This of course caused some conversation (or was it consternation) as members had forgotten how brilliant or otherwise they were all those years ago.
Following grace given by Johnnie Walker in his own inimitable way, we sat down to enjoy an excellent meal and have some interesting and stimulating conversations.
The first of the evening’s surprises was in store for Mary Powell when a birthday cake was put in front of her following the desert course.
Mary receiving her surprise birthday cake
At the appointed hour we all rose to give Loyal Toasts to Her Majesty The Queen, RAF Halton and the 83rd Entry.
After dinner, our guest Wing Commander Richard Morin (OC Support Wing, RAF Halton) was invited by Ivor to give an account of the RAF today and of RAF Halton in particular. Richard’s speech was very interesting and clearly showed that much has changed since we served our time, but importantly, all the core values remain.
Wg. Cmdr. Richard Morin giving his after dinner speech
Richard said he had thoroughly enjoyed himself and as it was his first major contact with "Brats" he was very impressed with the close bonds we still retained after all these years. Ivor gave our guest a vote of thanks on behalf of all present and then presented him with an Entry Key Fob and a signed copy of the "The History of the RAF Rotorcraft”.
It was now time to disclose another unscheduled surprise dreamt up by the ladies. This time it was Ivor and Margaret John who got the surprise when Heather Stone and her cohorts (the Entry Ladies) promptly took over the proceedings from Ivor.
An act such as this is considered by Ivor as high treason so it should never be undertaken lightly.
Anyway, Heather is a pretty formidable lady and being backed by all the other ladies, Ivor behaved like a ‘pussy cat’ - he'd not a lot of choice really.
Heather thanked Ivor for all the hard work he has done over the years for the 83rd Entry, even more so for Margaret who has to endure Ivor's dedication to the cause and provide Ivor with assistance on many things. At this point all the ladies rose and gathered around Ivor and Margaret so they could collectively present two large Plant Pots already planted with lovely roses. Good result!
A ‘classically stunned’ Ivor and Margaret during Heather’s presentation speech
And finally, the hotel staff quickly cleared the decks after Dinner for the taking traditional group photographs. After the usual protracted period it takes to produce a reasonable picture, it was time for bed – being completely shattered after a long day.
Click on the image to enlarge and see names list
Sunday, June 14th 2009
The final day of our stay at the Lambert Arms began with most folks gathering for another leisurely and hearty breakfast in the restaurant. This activity always precedes the final packing and loading of cars and the protracted period of saying our farewells to the Entry family for another year.
In 2010 Ivor will be taking a well earned rest from organising Reunions. Chips Woods has undertaken to bring the 2010 Reunion / Triennial programme together.
Below is a copy of the letter of thanks received by Ivor from Wing Commander Richard Morin.