27th Reunion at The Royal Beach Hotel, Southsea, Portsmouth

6th-9th September 2018

2018 Reunion - By Ivor John

The planning for the Reunion started early. By January the initial booking was made with Davina at the Royal Beach Hotel, Southsea. Prior to this, the process of choosing where we would go was undertaken. This then required a visit by the Management Team (John & Janet Burt, Myself & Margaret). Since the hotel was in the vicinity of Tony & Pam Miles at Waterlooville, they joined us as well. Davina added about £1 on the room price and dinner price from the time we were there in 2015 plus again giving us our function room for two nights for nothing.

The process of room booking went well with only two queries from me when receiving the monthly updates from the hotel. With rooms booked, the next phase is menu choice. I insist on replies being in code form i.e. B, F, J. This translates to a particular starter, main and dessert. This is all correlated and passed to the hotel so they know the number of which meals is required. We then move on to table choices. This is where members decide who they wish to sit with. My hit rate is high and usually one couple may be disappointed, but we are all 83rd after all. With everything in place, it was just a matter of waiting for the date to arrive on the calendar. Some members chose to stay up to four nights whilst some went for one night, each to their own choice.

Parking is a problem at the hotel, however the member in the Bentley managed to get parked at the hotel entrance. The hotel had a good connection by bus and most made use of this fact when choosing to go out. Portsmouth Dockyard is always a worthwhile visit. This time I managed to fit in the “Water Bus” that takes you out into the dockyard with a commentary given to cover all interesting facts that you pass. Shopping seemed to be one of the occupations for many of the ladies. Besides meals available at our hotel, the Southsea Pier restaurant, over the road, offered a range of meals including fish and chips. Portsmouth sea front also had a good selection of well-known brands to choose to get a meal from. At one time Brain Fairclough, Tony Miles and myself found ourselves outside the Southsea Pier and I suggested we have a go on the two penny slot machines. I sponsored a £1 worth each. In no time at all, Brian and I had spent the money and no rewards. We went to seek out Tony. He was still playing and doing it double handed and winning prizes and knocking money down. Brian and I were impressed with the style and stayed to watch him win pencils, pens, rubbers, plastic key rings plus vouchers kept being printed to claim a prize at the shop. In all it was tat, but at least Tony proved to be the champ!

Come Friday night, we gathered in the “Fearless” room for the “Parish Notices and Pub Quiz”. I went through the Entry list picking out names that I had contacted and gave an update. I also had to refer to the fact that Ted Butcher could not now attend and John Gardner decided to visit Ted at this time. I also spoke about the RAFHAA situation but couldn’t update on what the outcome of the recent AGM was. I mentioned the need to start thinking of the 2019 Reunion as it would be in celebration of 60 years since our graduation. The Pub Quiz was won by Dave Taylor and the “Heads & Tails” was won by Fred Finlay. Both the prizes were a “Tea for Two”.

83rd matters were discussed. One matter was the continuation of our website. With John’s passing I am now fully aware of the care, love and devotion he put into this project. Janet informed us that she had covered the current ongoing cost of hosting the site for the next two years. This is a fine gesture and much appreciated by all. Janet was also able to inform us that the total donations made in memory of John was £1120 and would be donated to a Prostate Project which John had selected.

1830hr on Saturday 8th September 2018 members, ladies and guests met at the hotel bar. Seating plan was displayed and individual menu cards were allocated to their tables. At 1900hr we were piped in by using Janet’s mobile phone, great stuff. Once all was sorted out. We had a few moments to remember those who had gone on before. We remained standing whilst Mary Powel provided yet another wonderful “Grace” to get us all in the mood. Forty-one sat down to dinner. Janet was accompanied by her daughter Emma. Mac Payne had both his son Kevin and his daughter Karla with him. I had invited James Barber as a guest, he had volunteered to take over the editing of the website. This was an ideal opportunity for him to get a feel of what we were about and meet some of the members. It seemed the planning had paid off and everyone received the menu choices they had made. This could have been due to the fact that our daughter and son-in-law now produce the 83rd Entry Dinner menus and highlights each individuals’ choices. The volume in the room seemed to indicate all was well. The service by the staff was excellent. The hotel was fully booked that evening with a minimum of four such like functions as ours including a “Murder/Mystery” club acting out their scenarios in amongst this.

Post dinner Dave Taylor provided another series of fine toasts to conclude this part of the evening. I went over some of the notices from the previous night for those who were not present then. With the rearranging of some of the furniture the one big task left was the Group photograph. With the passing of John (Lord Lichfield), Jim Waddington (Lord Snowdon) stepped up to undertake the task. Thanks to Jim. I personally retreated to the bar for one stiff whisky, before retiring to bed.

2018 Group Photo

One small note. Whilst out on Friday, I was walking and talking to Brain Fairclough, I collided with a large piece of street furniture, being a large block in the pavement. Going “A over B”. I landed on my hands. They hurt a bit but Saturday morning having had little sleep, Mary Powell examined them and advised a visit to a minor injury walk in centre. This was to be St Marys Hospital. We could easily get there by bus, so Margaret and I set off. Arriving about 1130hr. The process was that the most urgent got dealt with first ignoring when ever you arrived. Once seeing the nurse, had to wait for Xray, then wait for nurse again. Decision was I had a crack on one bone in right hand. Eventually leaving a 1530hr back to hotel. It is ongoing, back at home now.

Other than the above the Reunion was a success and enjoyable weekend. Thanks to all that made it. Let us make 2019 a special one. 60 years since graduating.

Royal Beach Hotel, Southsea

My visit - as experienced by Janet Burt

It has been a very difficult year for me losing John on the 29th April to the dreaded big C. He fought it bravely, as you would expect. My brother was also in hospital with lung cancer at the same time as John – John being in The Nuffield Hospital in Guildford and my brother in The Royal Berks, Reading. As you can imagine, it was a very sad and exhausting time visiting both of them and not being able to do anything to help. John did tell me that it was enough to have me and Emma there to support him.

My brother sadly passed away two weeks before John and I helped my nephew with the funeral arrangements. We arranged for John’s funeral to take place on the 1st June and I was so pleased that several members of the 83rd Entry were able to attend and escort the coffin into the Chapel to the tune of The Black Bear. The coffin was draped with the RAF flag. A very sad day, but a wonderful celebration of John’s life. Ivor delivered a tribute to John’s RAF career and their friendship over the years. Simon Jones (Navy! – a friend and work colleague) spoke about John’s friendship and second career in the Oil and Gas industry.

83rd Entry wreath

With the upcoming 83rd Entry reunion weekend looming I decided I would like to attend. John and I had travelled to each reunion since its inception in 1992. Ivor’s organisation of this event is excellent and John helped out where he could. John’s pride and joy was this Website and he spent many hours working on it around his work (at 77 years old he was still consulting for Oil and Gas UK, also advising and mentoring many other people including local politics and Jacobs Well village matters over the years).

I am sponsoring the Website for the next two years and I would urge you to continue to provide any updates, John was always asking for, to Ivor. You will read below that James Barber (who is a friend and works for the IT company we used for John’s business) will be carrying on making the Website work. He would meet with John to talk about this and eventually make it ‘live’ for you all to read, when John was satisfied that an update was ready. James is so interested to read about your experiences since joining up as Halton Apprentices and is keen to carry on helping us to keep in touch.

Anyway, back to this years event:

Thursday 6th September

A beautiful sunny day. We have been very lucky with good weather for our Reunions over the years.

I travelled down to Southsea in the morning. The car park at the hotel is small and, although we have been there before, I found it hard to find at the back of the hotel. After travelling around the back streets, I had to ask someone which way the sea was so I could get my bearings! However, having settled into my room with a lovely sea view I went to explore and see who was around. Everyone I came across from our group were very kind to me and agreed we would all miss John.

I had arranged to meet Simon Jones and his wife for dinner as they live near Southsea. When more of the 83rd arrived (in the bar of course!) it appeared they were going across the road to the South Parade Pier for fish and chips so we joined with them. So, there were many RAF and Navy stories being bandied about! A good evening.

Friday 7th September

Another beautiful sunny day.

After the usual hearty breakfast and much discussion who was going where, I joined with Ivor, Margaret, Brian and Maureen, with bus passes in hand, to travel to the Portsmouth Dockyard. Maureen and Margaret elected to walk around the various attractions and have coffee while the three of us went on board HMS Victory. We had seen HMS Albion sailing into the dockyard followed by a German navy ship on a courtesy visit and decided to join a Harbour Tour for a better look at any other ships in port. I think our two grumpy old men in the picture below had to admit they were impressed and agreed that the Navy has more ships than they were telling me!

Two grumpy old men I took on a boat trip!

One of several ships in Portsmouth Harbour on my boat trip with Ivor and Brian

Back on land we walked to Gunwharf Quays, a nice area for shopping and eating. After much discussion over various menus outside some of the restaurants and changing our minds several times, we settled for Café Rouge.

Finally, we decided to eat in Café Rouge in Gunwharf Quays, after much deliberation!

Following a very nice rest and lunch we walked around to find Tesco’s Express so that Maureen could top up her phone. Brian and Ivor were in deep conversation, about some RAF story I am sure, when Ivor failed to see two large concrete blocks, for sitting on, but Ivor decided to dive over them quite spectacularly! Fortunately he was not too hurt, but no doubt, embarrassed! We walked back to catch the bus back to the hotel without incident!

Friday night is traditionally a great get together for Ivor to catch up with Parish Notices when we hear news of members not present and this time the sad news that Halton may be closing and concerns as to what will happen to the Church where there are many donated Entry windows and our own kneeler embroidered by Ivor’s daughter etc. This was followed by a Quiz. I don’t know where Ivor gets these questions from but there are always moans and groans about ‘who would know that’! Fortunately, Dave and Angela Taylor did know enough to win the prize (only one point more than me!) which I believe is a tea for two somewhere of their choosing.

Hopefully, Angela will soon be over her impending operation and enjoy an afternoon tea somewhere nice. All the best Angela. To follow the Quiz there was a ‘heads or tails’ competition – this was won by Fred Finlay. A nice surprise for his wife, another afternoon tea, as she was unable to be with us this year.

A very good evening and most went back to the bar (or bed). As usual, there are always stories of how we used to be up until 2 and 3 in the morning, but no more!

Mary getting us organised for Quiz Night

Quiz Night - catching up

Quiz Night – David wants to get going, Mike looking up answers?

Saturday 8th September

Unfortunately, Ivor did not have a very comfortable night so it was back on a bus up to the minor injuries hospital. After a four hour wait he came back with news that he had broken a bone in his hand and had it strapped up, which made things feel less painful.

Another nice day but a bit cooler. A good hearty breakfast, all diets forgotten. Heather and myself took the bus to the Southsea shops. I do not like shopping when I am away but Heather needed to buy most important family birthday gifts. Luckily she is a quick shopper and we were soon on our way to the top of Palmerston Road looking for the office building I worked at in about 1964. Alas, it is not there now. Walking back my phone rang and we hadn’t noticed Brian and Maureen sitting to the right of us laughing and watching our progress. They had said they might join us so it was straight into the coffee shop opposite for a hot chocolate. By this time it was quite cool compared with the previous days.

The bus back to the hotel was packed which seemed to surprise the locals – a jolly lot.

Saturday night is always a great finale to our weekend, so dressed in our finest, we meet in the bar – 6.30 sharp as decreed by Ivor. It is always a noisy catch-up with the whole group – 41 in all. In previous years Johnny Walker piped us into dinner but as this is no longer possible, I played The Black Bear by the Royal Scots Guards thru my iPad for the procession into the dining room. After looking at the table plan which Ivor posted, we all found our places ready for a lovely meal. The menu card was, as usual, excellently prepared by Ivor and Margaret’s daughter, Sandra. Mary Powell said Grace as only she can and then we could sit and enjoy our meals.

After an excellent dinner, Ivor updates us with 83rd Family News

Happy looking lot – just had a lovely dinner, getting tired!

Mike is enjoying himself!

It’s been a long day, is it time for bed yet?

After an enjoyable meal Ivor updated us on a few things and introduced James Barber who will be keeping our Website live and up to date. Dave Taylor delivered the Loyal Toast and to our friends not able to attend this year, or who are no longer with us but in our memories.

The hotel was hosting six events during the evening and we were all impressed with the professional service we received.

The highlight of the evening has always been the group photograph but tinged with sadness without John this year (Lord Lichfield as Ivor called him). However, Jim Waddington (Lord Snowden) stepped up with his trusty camera and after much hilarity managed to get some good group photos. We love to compare the photos each year in John’s folder to see who has attended in previous years and to see how we have, or haven’t, changed!

Getting ready for the group photograph

Getting ready for the group photograph

Getting ready for the group photograph

Getting ready for the group photograph

A great evening as usual. Ivor asked that we think about a venue for next year – the 60th anniversary of the 83rd Entry graduation. Ivor and John had already talked about this at the beginning of the year and I know John thought it should be at the Peacock which is near to Halton. Please send any preferences/ideas to Ivor asap as we have to do a recce to where we want to stay well ahead of time.

It was a great final evening before we went on our way home after breakfast on Sunday morning. It was so nice to see everyone again. John and I did always meet up with ‘the Southern group’ as we called them for fish and chips occasionally during the year, and I believe there are others, who live near each other, who meet up too.

My daughter came to the dinner and she was able to meet the people we always talked about as the 83rd Entry family. James enjoyed talking to ‘the old boys’ telling their stories and we were pleased to see Mac Payne’s son and daughter supporting their father. Some of our ‘family’ have health problems, as would be expected at the rising age group, but it is great to see so many can be with us each year. It would be good if those of you who read the Website would keep in touch and supply your own news for publication. You are all thought about and you guys have so much to be proud of and the stories that you can tell of your experiences since your 83rd Entry Apprentices Halton days.

This year has been particularly sad for me but I so appreciate the love I have received from all of our 83rd friends.