25th Entry Reunion at The Peacock Country Inn, Henton
23rd to 25th September 2016
Very early in the planning process the reunion dates and venue were pretty much fixed so that the weekends events coincided with the RAFHAAA Triennial at RAF Halton.
Also, this year is the 60th Anniversary of when we joined the RAF as Aircraft Apprentices. It was on the 7th May 1956 that the 83rd Entry was formed at RAF Halton - a great day 60 years ago.
Before the Event
Having identified the historical relevance of 7th May 1956 to members of the 83rd Entry, there ensued correspondence from some of our members to relate other examples of why this is an historic date.
Patrick O'Shea pointed out that in addition to the above great day 60 years ago, the following had occurred 11 years earlier on May 7, 1945: At 02:41 on the morning of 7 May, at SHAEF headquarters in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies. General Franz Böhme announced the unconditional surrender of German troops in Norway on 7 May, the same day as Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document. A historic date for us in 1956 and also in 1945, as it was for so many millions of others affected by the War.
Our lives were greatly affected by both events. My father had just arrived back in a hospital ship 3 weeks earlier and my uncle, trained at Halton but not an Aircraft Apprentice, was in Burma with the 3270 RAF Servicing Commando and had to wait almost another year as POW's had priority. The other had done 3 years in Malta during the siege. Also Halton trained. Best wishes to you all. We are living in interesting times again. Not a thing in our US papers about May 7 or 8. Interesting. All the best Patrick
John Cheesbrough went on to say: Not to detract in any way from a great date, but I always understood that the surrender was first signed on Lüneburg Heath the day before, i.e. 6th May, 1945. That was the day firing ceased. Trouble was, Eisenhower insisted on a proper ceremony on 7th May ......because on 6th May they'd surrendered to the Montgomery!
Shorty Gray responded to the 'e' mail string with: Here in NZ we too have been totally ignored this weekend in local news papers and other media that I have seen or heard. Most news this week centres on whether we are now considered “corrupt” as apparently good place to set up foreign trusts. Early John Key denials now verging towards we may have to change our laws a bit. Opposition parties pointing fingers, etc.
I can still recall starting in 83rd, and after coming from summer and through tropics on a “big” (16,000 ton) ship at average speed about 14 knots, we wondered about shirt sleeves in Halton summer. However adjusted to climate in time. Winter visits to Scotland a new experience also. Many good memories of time there. Regards to all Don Shorty Gray.
The final communiqué from Ivor was short and to the point. All is now set for the 2016 Reunion. First gathering will be 20.00hrs on Friday in the private room. The format is "Parish Notices" followed by "Pub Quiz", £4 per couple. Please try and be on time. Reunion Dinner on Saturday, gather in bar from 18.30hrs for Dinner entrance at 19.00hrs. See you all soon. Ivor & Margaret
Thursday 23rd September
As is customary with our reunion weekends, these days, many of us now like to take an extended break by arriving in mid-week to explore the local area as well as getting together with old friends to have a jolly nice time. With this in mind, Dave and Angela Taylor and Jean and Dave Smith had arrived on Wednesday. From early afternoon on Thursday it was a case of check-in and chat for Ivor and Margaret John, Brian and Maureen Fairclough, Maureen and Dave Green and John and Janet Burt.
When Ivor arrived he told us about last minute cancellations by Gerry and Jacqui Biddiscombe and Mike and Kaye Murphy. Sadly, both as a result of health issues.
Our first evening was spent together enjoying each others company, catching up with the latest family news and tucking into an excellent dinner seated around the big table (12 places).
L to R: Angela and Dave Taylor, Jean and Dave Smith, Janet Burt
L to R: Ivor and Margaret John, Maureen and Brian Fairclough
L to R: Janet and John Burt, Maureen and Dave Green
Friday 24th September
RAF Museum Trip
Prior to arriving at Henton Brian, Ivor and John had already arranged to spend Friday at the RAF Museum in Hendon because surprisingly, Brian hadn't been to the Museum before. Also, Ivor was very interested to follow up on the whereabouts of an Me109 restoration project he'd been involved with during his time at RAF Northolt (See Notice Board for Ivor's article).
After a hearty breakfast to set us up for the day, we left Henton with Brian in the drivers seat and John navigating. Just as well Brian set up the Satnav because very soon John got it wrong on a roundabout and we were heading in the wrong direction on the A41 going north and had to turn around to head south. An otherwise uneventful journey found us arriving at the museum in reasonable time.
When we arrived at Hendon our visit got off to a good start because we 'bumped' into a large group of youngsters who Ivor quickly established were RAF Halton recruits. Needless to say they were treated to Ivor's briefing about the history of RAF Halton and the Aircraft Apprentices scheme. It was indeed good to talk to the youngsters who already seemed to be very much tuned into the RAF ethos and, on graduation, their important role in the future of a modern RAF.
Also, before getting started on our tour of the museum we visited the museum shop so John could make contact with staff about handing over 3 more boxes of RAF Rotorcraft Books (see image below). This was quickly sorted out with the manager who welcomed the gift and it was arranged that we would bring the car around to a side entrance to unload them later in the day. It's incredible to know that after all this time the book is still featured in one of the cabinets in the 'helicopter section' even though they had no books left to hand out, until we made the delivery .
Ivor and Brian on the main gallery with a BAe Typhoon above. Visible to the left downstairs is the excellent 'Time Line' that plots many key RAF events and achievements from the start up to present day; interspersed with other interesting references to aviation and social history.
Ancient and modern! Ivor and Brian sizing up a 'mock-up' of the latest RAF strike aircraft. The Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, to be known in UK service as the Lightning II.
Ah! that's more like it - Brian standing alongside the Rolls-Royce Bristol Pegasus engine that powered the BAe Harrier. Brian's first civilian assignment in 1980 was as a Rolls-Royce Customer Service Engineer.
Still in place having been donated to the RAF Museum in late 2007. A portion of the exhibits that were used for the Rotorcraft Exhibition and Display at the 2007 RAF Halton Triennial.
Brian posing with the 'infamous' Belvedere HC Mk1 that he served on initially at RAF Odiham and then with 66 Squadron in the Far East; during the Brunei Uprising and Indonesian Confrontation.
Not sure about this one! Perhaps it's Ivor paying homage to Brian and the Belvedere
The Cierva C30 Autogiro that we borrowed in 2007 for the Rotorcraft display at RAF Halton.
John paying homage to The Queen's Flight Westland Wessex HCC Mk 4. XV732 - still in immaculate condition.
Returning to Henton in late afternoon after a very good and informative day out at the museum, we met up again with the ladies and it was time for cups of tea and a chat to compare notes.
Visit to Great Missenden, the Spiritual Home of Roald Dahl
Janet, Margaret and Maureen had spent the day over in Great Missenden, the spiritual home of Roald Dahl. Clearly this was a popular choice of places to visit because the ladies also bumped into the Taylors and Smiths during their visit to the village.
Waxing lyrical about her visit to Great Missenden, Janet convinced me to take a closer look at the various pamphlets she had collected and this prompted me to visit the very informative website relating to the great man. To mention just a few of his talents, Roald Dahl was a spy, an ace fighter pilot, a chocolate historian and a medical inventor. The Timeline is well worth viewing to gain a full insight into his very full life and amazing works. It is also worth looking at the Great Missenden Roald Dahl Trail which illustrates his close association with Great Missenden.
Roald Dahl's grave in the grounds of the Church of St Peter and Paul.
Margaret and Maureen sitting on the memorial bench under the tree near Roald Dahl's grave.
Interior of the Church of St Peter and Paul
Returning from our local visits we quickly noted that the rest of the 83rd family had either arrived or were in the process of checking-in for the weekend. Clearly, it was going to be a full-house in the restaurant this evening and Ivor had given instructions for us all to be assembled in the function room at 20.00 for the 'Parish Notices' and then the usual Quiz Night.
At the appointed hour we were all congregated in the 'private room' to hear Ivor deliver the 'Parish Notices' and then settle down for the Quiz.
All eyes on Ivor as the answers to the quiz are given.
Clearly there were some surprises by the expressions on some of the faces.
The smiles indicate happy tables where the prize winners were located.
I have to say that the attempt by Janet me to answer all the questions was a bit of a disappointment because we only managed to score 16/30. We must try harder in future!!
Anyway, Mike and Mary Powell were the Quiz winners and they were rewarded with a Tea for Two voucher. Winner of the Heads & Tails competition was Jane Chmielowski with Des Winder coming second. Prizes were miniature models of aircraft.
Saturday 24th September
Following a hearty breakfast everyone de-camped from The Peacock to go off and do what they had planned for the day.
A group of the chaps had signed-up for the Triennial and proceeded in convoy to RAF Halton. See separate write-up under Triennials.
The rest of us which mainly included the ladies with a handful of chaps who decided not to attend the Triennial, set off for points of interest in the local area. One such place was Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley which seemed to be the place of choice for the majority. The gardens were made famous by Beatrix Havergal who established her School of Horticulture for Ladies here from 1932 to 1971, it's now home to 8 acres of beautifully landscaped ornamental gardens, a quality plant centre and garden shop, gallery and gift shop, museum and tea shop. See website for more information.
Waterperry Gardens Visit
Our arrival at Waterperry Gardens was heralded by a large watering can (see below) and cheery greetings from various groups of the Entry family who had already arrived or were just arriving.
With so much to see we decided we should get a move-on and after a quick comfort stop, it was full steam ahead to view what can only be described as an amazing 'museum of life' located in an 18th Century granary building . The collection of all sorts of ancient tools and implements illustrating rural life has been put together by the site owner over a period of more than 40 years and they are now cleverly displayed for everyone to see and enjoy.
Janet and Brian outside the museum having been amazed and impressed at the somewhat eclectic mix of items in the collection.
This image and those that follow are just a small example of the displayed items. Some items were a real challenge to identify and even more difficult to fully understand their intended use and this invited some pretty bizarre suggestions about their likely use.
According to the owner this till was the actual item that was used by Ronnie Barker in 'Open all Hours'. Janet and Margaret are clearly impressed!
Under the watchful eye of the museum owner, Janet defying the notorious 'finger biting' till.
Brian, Janet, Maureen and Margaret enjoying a stroll through the lovely gardens
It's all about being HAPPY and WELL!
John and Brian leaning on the exhibit
A good example of just one of the many flower beds with an amazing array of flowers to see and enjoy
Time for a sit down with a nice cup of tea and some proper scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
Then it was back to base to give ourselves plenty of time for another cup of tea and a rest before we got things sorted out in the dining room; so it would be all shipshape and ready for the Reunion Dinner. Work all went pretty much according to plan to put up the RAF Ensign, put out the table settings and menus, a nice trinket for the ladies from Dave and Angela Taylor (made by their daughter) and position and hide from view the gifts for later on.
Only failure was our inability to play the traditional pipe music to march into dinner. John Walker was unable to attend and play his pipes for us so I made up a CD and Memory Stick (best to have 2 options!) with appropriate tracks from the Halton Golden Oldies Tribute CD. Despite a lot of effort and head scratching by Martin we failed to get either media to function on the AV system.
Thereafter, it was a case of back to our rooms for a shower and getting ready in our finery and proceeding to the bar at the allotted time of 18.30 for a 19.00 sit down.
Click-on image to view the menu, etc.
All good to go with the exception of our customary pipe music to make our entrance.
Everyone congregating in the bar and catching up.
L to R: Tony Miles, John Cheesbrough, Sylvia Waddington, Pam Miles, Angela Cheesbrough and Jim Waddington
L to R: Ted Butcher, Rose Gardner, Jean Butcher and John Gardner
L to R: seated - Jean Smith, Dave Smith, Mike Powell and Heather Stone. standing - Des and Heather Winder, Dave and Maureen Green (at the bar), Dave Stone, back of Brian Fairclough, Janet Burt and Brian Canton
L to Right: Brian Fairclough, Dave Stone, Janet Burt, Brian and Susan Canton
Stefan and Jane Chmielowski, Dave and Maureen Green, Margaret John, Heather and Des Winder
Despite not having our customary pipe band music to march us into dinner the call for dinner was made by Ivor and processed to our tables in relative silence. That is, apart from the many conversations that took place whilst everyone checked out the table plans and name tags.
Ivor counting down to start the proceedings
Mary Powell saying grace in her true Scottish style.
Resting before pudding is served - L to R: Ted and Jean Butcher, John and Rose Gardner
Patrick O'Shea, Des and Heather Winder
L to R: Stefan and Jane Chmielowski, Dave and Angela Taylor
L to R: Dave and Jean Smith, Dave and Heather Stone, Mike Powell
Ivor and Margaret John
L to R: Pam Miles, Brian and Maureen Fairclough
L to R: Mal and Ann Wood, Mary Powell
L to R: Janet Burt, Tony and Pam Miles
L to R: Janet Burt, Tony and Pam Miles and Mary Powell standing
L to R: Dave and Maureen Green, Jim and Sylvia Waddington and Brian Canton
L to R: Sylvia Canton, Pat and Connie Butcher, John and Angela Cheesbrough
After we had eaten our puddings Ivor called the proceedings to order and announced that everyone would be receiving a 'goody' bag (ladies) or box (chaps) to commemorate the occasion. However, he asked that everyone wait until all the gifts were given out before we opened them.
Gifts delivered to this table but a slow hand clap to speed up the process
Go for it! Dave and Mike displaying their commemorative mugs (arranged by Ivor) whilst the ladies discovered what was in the 'goody bags' (provided by Janet and Sandra, Ivor's daughter).
After the merriment of opening gifts had subsided, Ivor called order and asked Dave Taylor to assume the role of Mr. Vice and lead the toasts to HM The Queen, the Royal Air Force and the 83rd Entry.
Dave did this with his usual aplomb and read a poem - The Erk’s Lament. (R.A.F Cranwell 1940)
Why did I join the R.A.F? Why can’t I learn to fly? Why can’t I join this bloomin’ war and Spitfire in the sky
Of flying we do nil all day, Our duty’s on the ground, Where even Squadron Leaders are Terra Firma bound
Of stunting, jinking, we see none, Of trips there’s even less, We spend our time in carting swill and sweeping out the mess
We’re fitters, drivers, Worms and Wops Mechanics and G.D’s, We fill in forms and documents and lubricate and grease
The Warrant Officer is tough and Chiefy’s even worse, The Corporal carries all the cans, The Police are one long curse.
Why did we join the R.A.F? Why can’t we sweep the sky? We’re browned off doing ground staff jobs why can’t we learn to fly?
Having thanked Dave for a job well done, Ivor asked Dave Stone to say a few words to entertain us with his usual witty observations about life experiences during his service (see below).
And finally it was time for Martin and his staff to clear the tables and move the chairs into position for the annual group photo. Click-on the image below to see it in 'full size' with all the names listed.
Martin and two of the three lovely ladies who looked after us for the evening. Sarah, Martin's deputy, had just gone off duty when we took this photo.
The ladies 'goody bag' (The small bags with embroidered motif were crafted by Janet's niece Sharon and the 83rd Entry badged packet containing personalised chocolates were crafted by Ivor's daughter Sandra )
A line-up of the place cards, menu, ladies 'goody bag' contents and commemorative mug for the men. In the centre of the image is a lilac drawstring bag with a trinket inside and these were crafted by Dave and Angela Taylor's daughter.
Sunday 25th September
The sun coming up over the Chilterns as seen from our bedroom window - superb view
A visit from the local herd - just outside of our bedroom window. The noise of cows munching grass has a somewhat soothing effect, if you like that sort of thing!
Our final breakfast at The Peacock is always a hearty occasion with everyone enjoying Martin's excellent fare and many conversations taking place as everyone gets ready to depart for home. Then it's time to settle our bills, pack our cars and say our good bye to friends, for another year.
As we say our farewells, I can attest that the 'Management Team' feel really great when receiving so many 'thank you's' for a job well done.
A sample of the lovely gifts and messages
On returning home it is always a great pleasure to receive the lovely thank you gifts in the post and appreciative emails from our friends. Needless to say, they are much appreciated and they certainly spur on the Management Team to get started with next year's reunion planning.