23rd Annual Reunion at Telford
11th to 14th September 2014
Early in 2014 Ivor, Margaret, Janet and John made a visit to Telford to check out the Ramada Telford Ironbridge hotel. We were all impressed with the friendliness, enthusiasm and attention to detail showed to us by Manager Mel, Deputy Manager Sue and Head Chef Matt during our brief visit and a tour of the hotel. We also had a most enjoyable bar lunch to set us up for the journey back home.
The friendliness, enthusiasm and attention to detail we encountered on our first ‘recce’ visit in January continued throughout our stay in September when we met Sue and her staff again along with Emma the event organiser.
Before we go too far into this missive a ‘quick reminder’; if any other members would like to contribute to this write-up or future website updates, please let us know. Also, if you would like to suggest future venues or have a speaker in mind that would be happy to entertain our members with an interesting after-dinner speech, then please give John a call.
Thursday 11th September
We left Guildford late morning and had a pretty relaxed drive up to Telford stopping briefly on the way for a bit of lunch and the usual comfort break. When we arrived mid-afternoon, Stefan and Jane Chmielowski, Dave and Jean Smith and Dave and Angela Taylor were already in residence having travelled to Shropshire the day before to eagerly start their long weekend at the Ramada Telford Ironbridge Hotel.
From mid-afternoon until late evening, six more couples arrived at various times and these included Ivor and Margaret John, Ken & Ngaire Butcher, Ted and Jean Butcher, John & Rose Gardner, Mike & Mary Powell, Maurice & Pauline Raven. Needless to say, there were lots of greetings and much delight to see Ken and Ngaire who had come over from Australia earlier in the month to visit places around the UK and attend the Reunion.
After settling into our rooms, the natural focal point to get together became the bar / sitting area with many cups of tea / coffee and alcoholic beverages being consumed whilst lots of conversations were going on; so everyone could get up right to date. So many stories to catch up on but, as usual, it was if we had seen each other only yesterday (and we all looked as young as ever!)
Later some of us decided to make our way into Telford town centre for an evening meal at Wetherspoons. Seemed a simple enough 10 minute walk into town when we set out but some regrettable navigation by ‘you know who’ led us astray but we eventually got there. The route we took for the return journey seemed to work out a lot better.
Friday 12th September
Despite a couple of very unfortunate minor hitches yesterday (soon resolved), it became increasingly obvious that the hotel was being managed and run by an excellent team of very good staff. Following a hearty and excellent buffet breakfast we all went our various ways for the day. Some chose a nearby National Trust venue or the famous Ironbridge village or a trip into Shrewsbury, etc.,
Along with other couples we chose to drive with Ivor and Margaret to the National Memorial Arboretum. On arrival at the Arboretum car park we immediately bumped into Jim and Sylvia Waddington who had come directly up from Milton Keynes and had yet to check-in at the hotel.
As we entered reception we enquired if Mim Morris was on duty but unfortunately she wasn’t, so we left a message for Mim to let her know we had visited and passed on our good wishes.
As with most trips these days first priority was a visit to the café for a cup of tea and a comfort break (not necessarily in that order!). Janet falling off her chair in the cafe (no drink involved!) is another story to tell. Janet’s unexpected crash to the floor shook us all up but thank goodness nothing was broken and there were no real bruises, just hurt pride! Still trying to work out how she did that – analysis suggests that as she sat down Janet caught the edge of the chair which shot backwards across the slippery floor.
From the cafe it’s a short walk to the Halton Grove going past the Chapel and a stall where we bought our road-train tickets (a must have at our age) for the 13.00 tour departure. Whilst waiting for the train we were able to spend quite a lot of time at the Halton Grove which is truly an excellent memorial to the RAF Halton Aircraft Apprentice scheme and all those who have passed-on and have achieved great things in their careers.
A view from the impressive entrance to the Halton Grove
Equally impressive, a view across the Grove and the huge Apprentice Wheel
Ivor, Jim and Sylvia eagerly awaiting departure time
Taking the train trip around the vast array of memorials with a continuous commentary is a must. It really adds to the experience but be prepared for a ‘cosy’ trip because the seats are a bit narrow! On an earlier train trip we saw Dave & Jean Smith and Dave & Angela Taylor as they departed.
John Morris's paver at the Halton Grove
Alongside our Entry Paver, Maurice already had put a Poppy Cross in memory of Norman 'Spike' Armiger (NZ) so Jim Waddington and I decided we should also do that for our close mates George Harvey, Jon Philipson and Mike Tuckman.
Poppies L to R – George Harvey, Spike Armiger, Jon Philipson & Mike Tuckman
A visit to the Arboretum is a very moving experience and we all agreed that it is an excellent place to visit. Since our last trip to Alrewas the gardens have more than doubled in size and there are many more stunning memorials and tree plantings to see.
The RAF Association Memorial
Just a couple of examples above of the many wonderful and colourful memorials
From Ivor and John’s point of view it was even more poignant to see the names of people they knew personally on the panels of the National Memorial.
After a thoroughly thought provoking few hours it was back to the café for another cup of tea and a cake. Following yet another comfort break and the inevitable visit to the shop we travelled back to the hotel in time to have a brief rest, enjoy dinner and get ready for the evening gathering and Quiz Night.
On arrival back at the hotel we were greeted by the rest of our reunion party who had not long arrived!! All present and correct were Pat & Connie Butcher, Bryan & Sue Canton, John & Angela Cheesbrough, Brian & Maureen Fairclough, Fred & Pam Finlay, Pam & Tony Miles, Dave & Heather Stone, Mike & Kaye Murphy and Mal & Ann Wood.
When everyone had returned to the hotel after their local visits we were pretty well all set for dinner. Most of us ate at the hotel and apart from continuing ‘catch-ups’ with each other, there were very good accounts and recommendations given about all the days visits. A few members ventured into Telford centre in search of a curry.
Quiz Night and Parish Notices
After dinner everybody assembled in the Wenlock Edge Suite. Ivor had instructed us to be in our private room for 8pm but, as usual, with all the talking over dinner etc, etc. we were a little late getting underway with the ‘Parish Notices’ and joining the fun that always seems to be the main feature of our Pub Quiz
Ivor expressed delight that Kiwi Ken and Ngarie Butcher had made the trip over from Australia this time. Ken and Ngarie last visited together in 1992, our first reunion, and Ken came over solo for the 2006 reunion; so we were all very pleased to see them both again this time. So much to catch up on!
Another new member was Pam Finlay who was unable to come with Fred when he first attended a couple of years ago. It was great to meet Pam and everyone quickly made her feel part of the Entry family.
Ivor announced that John Dainty who lives quite close to the hotel is also able to come to the reunion dinner this year which is great because John’s health has not been too good in recent months.
Ivor also gave us updates on other regular attendees who could not make it this time for various reasons, some health issues etc. Especially Mike and Gwyneth Frost, John and Anne Walker, Pat and Judie O’Shea and Arthur and Irene Wray. Ivor had received a message from Patrick that he shared with us "So sad to be missing the reunion this weekend but I know you will have a great time anyway. Maybe even good weather. Know that I will be with you all in spirit (or spirits as the case may be) I'll try to lift a glass in your honor on Saturday night. I'm keen to hear about plans for 2016 - 60 years on".
Ivor then informed us that sadly, he’d received information that John Fenwick passed away earlier in the year.
Members were then asked by Ivor to consider where they would like to hold the reunion weekend next year (2015) and also, if we should be planning to hold the 2016 reunion in the Halton area to coincide with the Triennial. This is an ongoing task for the organisers to resolve so Ivor needs everyone’s views on venues for 2015 and 2016.
Ivor asked John to let everyone know about our after dinner Speaker for Saturday evening. John announced that Darren Priday, Manager of the Sir Michael Beetham Preservation Centre at RAF Museum Cosford will be our guest at the Dinner and he will be accompanied by Rebecca, his wife.
John also requested any corrections, photos, write ups and news of other members to be sent to him so that the website can be kept up to date. Having dealt with all the admin, the fun could begin!
The Pub Quiz is always a noisy affair with 30 questions set by Ivor and frequent cries of ‘how would we know that!’ etc. to some of the questions. Anyway we eventually completed the quiz thinking we had done rather well. However, it turned out that the highest score was just 23 and much was made about the answers having to be the exact spelling – not everyone’s forte. And, as befits such an occasion, there were cries of ‘we would have won if you could spell – you know who you are!!
The hotel had very kindly donated some excellent prizes for the quiz (a free weekend at the hotel and bottles of wine) and there were some other prizes provided by Ivor from the ‘83rd fund’ (entry mugs and tea for two vouchers) for the inevitable ‘raffle with a difference’. Winners on the night were Pam Miles, Maurice Raven, Fred Finlay, Rose Gardner, Dave Taylor and Tony Miles.
Unfortunately, the Entry photographer “our own Lord Litchfield” failed dismally by leaving his camera ’on-charge’ in his room and completely forgetting he was supposed to take pictures; until it was well too late!! Silly old fool! So, copies of any photos taken at Quiz Night will be much appreciated. If you have some please send them to John!
Saturday 13th September
Another eagerly awaited visit to the restaurant didn’t disappoint. Unsurprisingly, the breakfast area was quite noisy because, as is normal with reunion weekends, our people delight in greeting each other and continuing their conversations to catch up with each other’s news. Also, there are the inevitable shouts of “where are you off to today?”
One thing of note is the great restaurant staff who did everything they could to make sure we enjoyed breakfast. We were served very good food at the buffet and having requested it the previous evening; John even got his favourite breakfast ingredient - black pudding!
After breakfast, small groups slowly gathered in Reception again to set off to various points of interest. However, before we took off for RAF Cosford Ivor and John met with Gemma, Sue and Graham to discuss arrangements for the evening and check-out the AV system in the Wenlock Edge Suite.
RAF Cosford visit
Ivor, Margaret, Brian, John and Janet made their way to RAF Cosford Museum.
Start of the museum tour – our group trying to figure out what a Nimrod was doing parked there. How did they do that?
A reflection of our time in the RAF
Ivor and Brian looking at an RB211 engine and in awe of its size
The Dornier 17 recovered from the English Channel languishing in a poly tunnel undergoing preservation treatment
So much to see and reminisce about – nostalgia all the way chaps!
Westland Wessex HC Mk2 - AG (XR525) – one of John’s aircraft in the early 70’s whilst serving with No: 72 Squadron at RAF Odiham – a classic helicopter that was regularly deployed in the UK and overseas!!
Douglas SM75 Thor IRBM - yet another classic that John served on during the early 1960’s at RAF North Luffenham (and he still has vivid memories from his early 20’s of being deployed to the missile sites during the Cuban Crisis)
Without question, the RAF Museum at Cosford is well worth a visit (or Hendon for that matter). Listening to Ivor, Brian and John recalling all manner of things as we meandered through the many exhibits, the visit clearly held many memories for them. Back at the hotel and over a cup of tea stories were exchanged about the various visits during the day and then everyone disappeared to spruce up for the evening and eagerly awaited Reunion Dinner.
First thing to do on returning to the hotel from Cosford was for Ivor and John to check out the Dining Room and AV system to make sure that everything was in good shape for the evening. They both were very impressed with the table layouts (see pictures below) and souvenir menus provided by the hotel (click on the menu image below to see the excellent choices). Also, Graham was on hand to do a final AV system check to make sure it played ‘The Bear’ as everyone entered for dinner and the projector worked so that Darren could do his slide presentation. Everything was good to go!!
The Wenlock Edge Suite
The Wenlock Edge Suite was very smartly laid out to provide plenty of space and a nice atmosphere when the lighting was dimmed. Most appropriately, our banners had been put up and the seating for the after-dinner traditional group photo already set out at the end of the room. Not visible in the above photo is the other end of the room which was set up with the AV equipment and screen that provided pipe music for marching in to dinner and the presentation slides for Darren’s after dinner talk.
Table settings themed for the RAF and 83rd Entry – a really nice touch; expertly done by the hotel. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Click on image to see menu
With everyone instructed to gather in the bar at 18.30 for pre-dinner drinks and ‘march-in’ to dinner, our guests Darren and Rebecca arrived right on time for a chat with many of us in the bar before we were called into dinner at 19.00, by Graham our MC for the evening.
Cracking bar staff who kept our glasses filled all the way through. Note the time is 18.31 precisely
Meet and Greet time – much to talk about as usual and not forgetting a visit to the ‘special’ table set up to order wine
Our guest Darren (he's the tall chap!) being introduced to the Entry Family
With John Walker not being able to be with us John B played a tape of ‘The Bear’ for our traditional march-in to dinner.
Maureen Fairclough, Tony and Pam miles with Maurice Raven in
Maureen Fairclough, Tony and Pam miles with Maurice Raven in background
Ivor playing host as people moved into the dining room
When everyone was assembled there were 43 for dinner including our guests Darren & Rebecca. It was at this point that Graham called us to order so that Ivor could start the evening’s proceedings in time honoured fashion. We were also called by Ivor to remember our fallen comrades and those members not present for this evening. Then Ivor invited Mary Powell to say grace. Mary expertly delivered an amusing grace and credited John Walker for providing the words. It was also Maurice’s birthday, so the assembled throng sung “We wish you a Happy Birthday” with great gusto!
Table 1 – Our guests Darren and Rebecca Priday with Ivor
Table 1 – Margaret John, Dave and Jean Smith, John and Janet Burt
Table 2 – Heather Stone, Pat and Connie Butcher, Brian and Sue Canton and Dave Stone
Table 3 – John Dainty, John and Rose Gardner, Ted and Jean Butcher
Table 3 – Ken and Ngaire Butcher
Table 4 – Pam Finlay, Maurice and Pauline Raven and Mike Murphy
Table 4 – Kaye Murphy, Angela and John Cheesbrough and Fred Finlay
Table 5 – Chips and Anne Wood, Brian and Maureen Fairclough
Table 5 – Jim and Sylvia Waddington, Tony and Pam Miles
Table 6 – Dave and Angela Taylor, Stefan and Jane Chmielowski
Table 6 – Mike Powell in fine form
Competing for Photographs - Jean Butcher with Mary Powell (on Table 6) who also said Grace
Dave Taylor – Mr. Vice
The meal was excellent and it could be seen that everyone was enjoying chatting with their table partners – as always, the noise level rose considerably. Having served the Port, Mr. Vice, Dave Taylor, proposed toasts to the Queen, the RAF, absent friends and the 83rd Entry. I must say well done Dave and it was a very nice tipple! Ivor then asked John to introduce our after dinner speaker, Darren Priday.
AJB introducing Darren
At the age of 17, Darren joined the Royal Air Force at RAF Halton as an Airframe Mechanic in March 1979. He returned to Halton for his Fitters Course in 1983 and went on to serve for over 26 years; retiring with the rank of Chief Technician. His career included two tours on VC10’s at RAF Brize Norton initially as a Mechanic on 1st line then later as Trade Manager on a very busy flight line. A lengthy tour at RAF St. Athan involved major servicing and upgrades modifications on Phantoms, Harriers, Hawks and Jaguars. During this time he also did a 4 month tour (from May to September 1988) with 23 Squadron in the Falkland Islands. Posted onto the project team at RAF Wyton as part of the Royal Air Force of Oman Jaguar Upgrade Project, Darren then spent 2 years in Oman as the Mechanical Engineering Specialist. He returned to the UK with a posting to RAF Cosford as a Trade Management Instructor, instructing newly promoted corporals and sergeants. On leaving the RAF in September 2005 and deciding to stay with his family in the local area, Darren found employment with the Royal Air Force Museum where he became a member of the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre (MBCC), carrying out conservation and restoration work on the RAF Museum's huge collection. In September 2009 Darren was promoted to Deputy Manager and on 1st December 2013 he reached the pinnacle, as the Manager of MBCC. John finally noted that Darren is married to Rebecca and they have a daughter Charlotte (19) and son Josh (14) and his main interests include rugby union, golf, photography and walking the family dog, Elsa. It was then over to Darren to do his illustrated talk about the work of the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre.
Darren getting down to business
Darren’s slide presentation covered all the many aspects of day-to-day life at the museum and it came as quite a surprise to learn that there are well over 700 exhibits spread between Hendon and Cosford Museums and the Stafford Storage Depot that also comes under his charge. Clearly Darren's job is full of challenges but at the same time it was fascinating to hear that the museum's key function is to preserve the exhibits as they were during their service and not to restore them into 'glossy' artifacts.
The Michael Beetham Conservation Centre is responsible for aircraft and artifacts in the Museum and those on loan. A world centre of excellence, its primary function includes conservation, restoration and the movement or suspension of aircraft or large exhibits. Carried out by some 20 professional technicians and apprentices, the work is ably supported by dedicated and trained volunteers. Past and present projects include the recently completed Sopwith Dolphin, a Vickers Wellington Mk10B bomber, a rare Handley Page Hampden TB and the recently recovered German Dornier 17Z Light/Fast Bomber.
Darren explained that every project is a challenge, a journey back through time, utilising old or forgotten skills to repair, restore or replicate the original. Such skills were becoming lost, but the Museum has, through the dedication of the MBCC, rejuvenated and retained many through innovative and award-winning schemes. Currently employing 7 male and female aircraft-trade apprentices, the MBCC became the National Apprentice Employer of the Year 2010.
Darren noted that the MBCC is a fascinating place, full of atmosphere, dedication and a passion for preserving our National aviation heritage. Not normally open to the public, the MBCC does however open its doors for one week each year (normally November) to let the public see and feel history working at its best.
Darren’s talk may have been a little technical etc. for the ladies but it was very interesting for the chaps. As you would expect from our group, Darren's presentation was well received and several members asked him a variety of questions.
Apparently, Darren has made numerous presentations during the course of his work at the Museum but this was a ‘first’ in front of his wife. I am sure Rebecca was proud of him especially as he had a nasty cold and was feeling quite ‘under the weather’ on the night! Ivor thanked Darren and presented him with an 83rd Entry mug and a copy of the RAF Rotorcraft History book.
Finally, Ivor invited us all to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening – but "hold-on, hold-on" came the cry. ‘What about the traditional group photograph?’
So there we were once again shouting at John to hurry up because we were missing more drinking and chat time. As is customary, many shots were taken and finally it was time to disperse. The final results can be seen below.
Group Photo (Click-on image to see large version with all the names)
The men only – still uncertain why we did this!!
It was fairly late when our guests departed and some of the stalwarts made it back to the bar. Janet and I can’t make it to bed too late these days otherwise there are repercussions the following day! Not like in 1992 and beyond when 3am was more like it.
It was agreed by everyone that Sue, Graham, all the front of house staff and, of course, Chef and his team had excelled on the night to make it a most memorable and enjoyable Reunion Dinner. Very well done to them all - and much appreciated by our Entry Family.
Sue and her excellent front of house staff all prepared for a busy evening.
Busy doing other things but not to be missed out of the photo call.
Other members of the excellent hotel staff who we didn’t manage to get a photo of were Graham (the MC and chief whip). Graham didn’t remain still long enough to join the group photo!! Also, Mat the head Chef and his kitchen staff. Emma who was chief event organiser and Mel, the Hotel Manager who was off duty.
A really top group of very nice people running the hotel. Very highly recommended.
Sunday 14 September
Another hearty breakfast was thoroughly enjoyed and this set us up for our trip home to Guildford. With checking-out and packing cars completed, it was then time for our ritual of extended "goodbyes and see you next year" to all our friends; and it was good to hear very many congratulations to Ivor and John for yet another successful reunion. Best ever! Long may they continue.
Post Reunion Feedback
Dave Taylor - Dear Ivor and Margaret, first let me say what a lovely time Angela and me had at Telford for this years reunion. The hotel I thought did us well, their service and the food was tremendous and as always the company is second to none. So thank you both for that and also John and Janet, who I know do their share of the organising.
John & Rose Gardner - Hello Ivor and Margaret. Many thanks to you and the team for such a lovely time. We were pleased that everything went so smoothly. Portsmouth sounds good for next year - count us in. All the best.
Ken (Kiwi) Butcher - Comrades, Ngaire and I arrived home safely on Friday. We had just the best time in England this trip and so enjoyed every bit of our brief time with you all. I did say to some that this would be our "swan song" trip to UK, unless we won Lotto. Given the odds of that, we are now looking for alternative funding!!!!!! Full credit to our "organisers" - didn't they do well? The hotel really did a good job of the settings and we now understand the need to pre-order from the well balanced menu!! We loved Ironbridge and its environs - took up two well spent days of our precious time! Should we manage another trip, we don't much care where it is - 'tis the people we come for. However, we would suggest Melbourne, Australia for next year's gathering providing we could get the numbers!!!!!!!!! Again a lovely experience, our deep affection to you all, Butch.
Mike and Kaye Murphy - Dear Ivor, The 2014 Reunion at Telford was most enjoyable so thank you Ivor for all the hard work put in by John and yourself with, no doubt, meaningful suggestions from Margaret and Janet all of which helped to make the event so successful. The hotel was an excellent choice and we were very well looked after by the hotel staff. The service we enjoyed at the dinner was second to none - very professional in its execution. Coming on to 2015 I think the suggestion made by Jim Waddington and supported by Mike Powell is a good one. Portsmouth has a lot to offer in regard to places of interest to visit. Let us add to the already lengthening list the Spinnaker Tower and the Submarine Museum. It would also be quite novel to decide on a venue for next year's Reunion before the year was out. Tis food for thought and thanks to Jim and Mike for sowing the seeds. Regards to all, Mike and Kaye.
Jim & Sylvia Waddington - Hello everyone, Sylvia and I had a most enjoyable week end in really great company. It was so good to chat about things of the past and catch up in general. It was especially great to see Ken & Ngaire over from Australia. The celebration dinner was 1st class backed up by the hotel staff who were efficient and smiling throughout. Thanks very much Ivor & John for your organisation, or was it Margaret & Janet, you are to be congratulated anyway. We look forward to next year where ever it may be........Portsmouth sounds good and was heard to be mentioned by a few. If you have never been down there it would make a great venue with so much to see and do. Maybe a trip around Fleetlands as well. Take Care and All Best Wishes, Jim & Sylvia.
Darren Priday, our guest speaker - Dear John and Janet, Please pass on my thanks to all our new friends whom we met on Saturday evening. We had a great time and the food was excellent (Rebecca wants me to take her back for a meal!). I hope the presentation was well received and thank you again for the cup and book. Don’t forget the offer of a guided tour of the MBCC next time you are up this way. Kind regards, Darren Priday.
Janet and John Burt