20th Annual Reunion at the Radisson Park Inn, Telford
22nd to 25th September 2011
Based on feedback from the visit made last year by Chips, Ann, Tony and Pam, the Reunion venue for 2011 was Telford in Shropshire.
Ivor’s forward planning for this year’s reunion was to be well and truly tested because just two days before the event was to commence, Ivor was taken into hospital so he would not be able to travel and attend the reunion. As a result, last minute arrangements were made for Janet and me (John Burt) to make a detour via Ruislip to collect from Margaret all of Ivor’s very clear and concise arrangements for the weekend and to receive a briefing from Robert, his son.
Thursday, 22nd September 2011
Armed with Ivor’s instructions we made our way to the Radisson Park Inn at Telford and after arrival and settling in I contacted Debbie (Ivor’s contact at the hotel) to let her know what had happened to Ivor and to pick-up on the various weekend arrangements, etc. Clearly without Ivor and Margaret to greet everyone, I put the word around to gather in a side room for a briefing to give everyone the news about Ivor and Margaret’s absence and to share the various details of the weekend arrangements.
Testament to Ivor’s organisation most things were already well organised and it was really just about putting together the final touches for the private room and reunion dinner, and a couple of other things.
One of the first things that Debbie did was to advise me that members of 84 Squadron would also be staying at the hotel for their AGM and dinner and that the 83rd Entry members were invited to chat and have a drink with them any time during the weekend. Needless to say there was very good interaction between both groups.
Also their Secretary, Derek Whittaker, had arranged a treat for 84 Squadron members and he passed the word to me that we could share in their experience at the appointed time. Much appreciated as you will see later!
Visit to 83 ATC Squadron
Ivor had arranged with Flt. Lt. Paul Woodcock (the CO) to visit the local ATC Squadron (would you believe No: 83) based at Trench just 5 miles from the hotel.
At the appointed hour of 7pm seven members of the 83rd Entry were collected in a mini-bus and whisked away into the darkness to join the local ATC members on parade that evening. The brave souls were Jim Waddington, Maurice Raven, John Gardner, Mike Murphy, Dave Smith, Ted Butcher and John Burt.
We were warmly welcomed with cups of tea / coffee and shown around the headquarters by an enthusiastic CO and his band of senior helpers.
83 ATC Squadron is thriving and comprises cadets of mixed ages and gender. Clearly they are proud of their achievements. During our visit they were handing out uniforms to new cadets and that got our attention because it was ‘new issue’ unlike the ‘hairy’ blue kit we were given in the ‘50’s!
Another interesting discovery but perhaps only for those with memories of having to live on field rations (e.g. when deployed with 72 Sqd), was the contents of the modern day ‘compo rations’. Believe me, the ration pack has come a long way since the mid 70’s and there is a wide range of tasty food choices nowadays.
On behalf of the 83rd Entry, Jim Waddington presented to the CO a CD, an 83rd Entry Plaque and our Entry badge mounted on a shield (See below). We also left some boxes of John Burt’s History of RAF Rotorcraft books and some Flight books from EADS to distribute among the young people.
The CO presented each of us with an 83 Sqd ATC t-shirt with a special ‘hoodie’ version to be given to Ivor to compensate for his absence. Whilst we were indulging ourselves over at the ATC, our partners and the rest of the members ‘did their own thing’. The hotel was very close to town centre so some went window shopping and had a meal there.
Friday, 23rd September 2011
After breakfast, it was a day for members to go their own way and enjoy the sites of Shropshire.
Visits to local interest sites
Some of us travelled down into Ironbridge to visit as many of the amazing and interesting museums as possible (we managed just 2 out of 10 on an annual visitors passport!) whilst others went to RAF Cosford to visit the RAF Museum and others visited grand local houses and sites of interest.
The famous Ironbridge – an amazing piece of construction
On our return and in the reception bar area over a cup of tea, everyone reported back that they had spent a very good day in the local area and quite clearly, there is plenty to do. It’s definitely a ‘must come back’ sort of place.
Having got back to the hotel and welcomed members who had checked in today, word was passed around that we should all assemble outside the hotel at 18.15 for a special event scheduled to take place at 18.30. 84 Squadron had invited us to join them outside for the arrival overhead of a BBMF Spitfire at 18.23 to be precise.
It turned out to be a fantastic display with several fly-bys before the iconic airplane disappeared across to RAF Cosford for a pre-arranged show for the folks attending dinner in the Mess. The fly-past caused a great deal of interest and excitement for other guests at the hotel – including the Torquay football team who were positioned there for their match with Shrewsbury the next day – they lost!
During early evening the rest of our party arrived (plus one dog!). Unfortunately, the evening was slightly marred because dinner at the hotel was being served in relays due to the large number of guests staying. Unfortunately, many of our members were on the ‘second sitting’ and had to wait a very long time because ‘something had happened in the kitchen’ (which we never got to the bottom of). However, having had dinner, the rest of us was able to while away the time in our private room (Ironbridge I and II) to await the start of a Pub Quiz (with questions already prepared by Ivor).
As usual the previous year’s reunion photos and other images were available for scrutiny and were looked at again with the usual references being made about the ageing process. Tony Miles had laid out a selection of his memorabilia for all to see and to talk about i.e. ‘you remember him, he was one wing – always on jankers’ etc. etc. Janet reminded me that the girls have heard it all before, many times!!!
Eventually when everyone was present, Tony and Pam Miles took charge and ran the quiz. This turned out to be hilarious with plenty of backchat. At the final reckoning, some of the answers given were well wide of the mark and were obviously very bad guesses!
Brian and Maureen Fairclough were ‘crowned’ the worthy winners of the quiz and won a very nice box of chocolates.
Saturday, 24th September 2011
Trip to the National Arboretum
After a satisfying DIY breakfast (e.g. buffet) we all made our own way to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas about 40 minutes away.
Ivor had previously been contacted by Mim Morris who is the widow of John Morris an 83rd Entry Halton ‘Brat’ remembered by many present. Mim is a volunteer guide at the National Memorial Arboretum and she had asked to meet with us so, the final arrangements were put in place during the previous evening.
We arrived at the main hall of the National Memorial site, checked-in, introduced ourselves and asked for Mim. Mim came across and greeted everyone and following many introductions, took us straight to the Royal Air Force Halton Apprentices Memorial Garden ‘Halton Grove’. Mim was very touched that she had finally met some of John’s colleagues and that some of the guys had taken old photos along for her to see.
Mim introduced us to the Halton Grove and we were all very impressed and soon found the 83rd Entry paver.
The entrance to Halton Grove
The 83rd Entry Paver
Mal Woods had brought along the 83rd Entry banner and that was the cue to take group photos.
Click on this image to enlarge and see names list
Shortly after, Mim had to leave us to take a pre-booked party around the arboretum; so we said our farewells to a lovely lady (just visible in the photo, 3rd from the right). Some of us walked around the acres of memorials, some went by road train with a commentary – there is so much to see at this wonderful place which is so well thought out.
The Armed Forces Memorial is the centrepiece and is absolutely impressive with all the names carved into the stone panels. It is a very poignant reminder for some of our members who could pick out the names of people they knew personally and had served with.
Brian, Maureen and Janet admiring a very poignant part of the massive National Memorial
Back at the hotel everyone reflected on their visit to Alrewas and said what a wonderful National Memorial it is and were amazed at all the very thoughtful efforts put into it. It really is a place for us to be proud of.
Having rested and got ready for the main event (the Annual Dinner), we assembled for pre-dinner drinks in the bar.
Our private dining room was ready with Ensign, Banner, photos and memorabilia in place.
Jock the peeps was at the ready to pipe us in and as usual, this created great delight for all, including the other hotel guests.
Johnny Walker said Grace in his usual amusing way and then we could eat!
After a nice meal Dave Stone led the toasts to Her Majesty the Queen, the 83rd Entry, Absent Friends, Ivor and Margaret and Mary Powell (who was unable to attend with Mike as their daughter was very ill).
Maurice Raven asked us all to remember Spike Armiger in New Zealand who has to face having his leg amputated (see Notice Board 2012). Members were asked to write him some ‘e’ mails to cheer him up.
John Dainty – Ivor’s new members find – attended the dinner and told us what had been happening to him since he left RAF Halton. After a long career in the RAF and transferring to the Supply Branch he retired in the rank of Squadron Leader. He then joined the Army and served for several years and rose to the rank of Colonel. During his last tour he was attached to the Army Cadet Force. It was really good to hear the career exploits of another member of our 83rd family. Good to meet with you again John, especially after all these years.
The inevitable point arrived when tables were cleared and THE annual group photograph was taken by John Burt which, as always, caused much hilarity.
Click on image to enlarge and see names list
At last, it was jackets off and more drinks and chat, chat, chat until we all faded and went off to our beds.
Sunday, 25th September 2011
After breakfast and sorting out our bills (some right, some wrong) we all said our goodbyes and hoped to see everyone again next year and maybe, those who could not come this time.
It was agreed that the recce done by Mal, Ann, Tony and Pam last year in the Telford area was ‘spot on’ and a good choice for a central meeting place. Maybe if we do return to the Midlands area a different hotel should be considered if the planned renovations to the Radisson Park Inn are not carried out.
It should be mentioned that the staff we dealt with at the hotel were efficient and very friendly and helpful (Debbie was our main contact and Will and his team looked after our needs at the Reunion dinner).
It was agreed that Ivor and Margaret were very much missed but Ivor’s excellent arrangements ran as smoothly as ever and, with the help of all those present, the weekend was a total success. Ivor’s effort on behalf of the 83rd family was appreciated by all.