Reunion 2014

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Reunion and visit to the Shuttleworth collection.

As we hadn’t had a reunion for a couple of years, due to my heavy commitments, it was decided to hold one in 2014. A short list was drawn up of where to go and the majority opted for the Shuttleworth collection. After looking ta their website, the last flying day of the year on the 5th October was chosen. I had been told of a good hotel close Tring called the Best Western Watermills and so that was finally chosen. A coach was organized to take us to the collection as well. I also asked the Shuttleworth collection if we could have a roped off area close to the runway as well.

31 from the entry signed up for the reunion and along with ladies a creditable 42 dully arrived at the hotel on the 4th. On arrival for most of us, the small reception area was a scene of organized chaos. The hotel was hosting a wedding for around 800 that evening and it would appear that most of them had turned up early. We organized a section of the bar area as ours and settled down for the usual chat and drink, eventually booking in as the afternoon proceeded. The hotel staff were very efficient and son had us all sorted out.

The evening of the 4th was 3 course servery where the usual meet and greet took place. It was gratifying to see a number of new faces this time as well as some who had been missing at the last reunions. Considering the scale of the wedding taking place in a marquee on the grounds, the service was efficient  and as usual some went to bed at a reasonable hour, while others stayed up to chew the fat until the hotel (and their livers) cried enough.

Sunday dawned clear and quite warm. Breakfast was in a separate room upstairs from the normal dining room and as a result the food could have been hotter. The coach arrived in plenty of time and we were soon off, having loaded our picnic chairs, etc. When we arrived at Shuttleworth, we were directed by a young lady to follow a golf cart and lo and behold, not only did we have a roped off area, but it could not have been in a better spot. There was also space for the coach to park and, even though the driver was not booked to stay, he did. We were close to the hangers, the Loo’s (an important consideration) and the beer stall ( an even more important consideration).

After spending a few hours wandering around the fascinating collection of pre-war and Edwardian aircraft, we settled down to watch the display. The theme of the afternoon was record breakers and racing aircraft. It started with Hunter T7 and just got better and better. A visiting Mustang, aircraft from the collection – first world war fighters, Hurricane, Lysander, Gladiator, the DH Comet and so on. A delightful afternoon in the sun. Sadly we had to leave just as they were wheeling out the Edwardian aircraft for a unannounced flying display.

The evening as ever was formal, with a good meal provided by the hotel. I said Grace, Nick Bale did the loyal toast and Ian Spencer-Brown AKA Dusty Brown did a very moving toast to absent friends – including getting us all to sing “For they were Jolly Good Fellows”. The toast to the entry was conducted by Mike Bryant in the absence of Dick Bogg, who couldn’t make it due to his wife having a fall and needing to be looked after. We wish her a speedy recovery. As ever the drink, talk and reminiscing went on to the wee hours.

During the evening, we decided on two things. One was to try and form a golf society for next year and secondly to have a reunion at the Triennial in 2016 at the same hotel – provided nothing changes with it in the meantime. Date of the triennial ios Saturday 24th September 2016 and we will have a reunion that evening. The hotel is now pre-booked so forward planning is well underway.

Mike’s toast was well worth listening to and here is the full version.

First of all, I would like to say on behalf of everyone, how much we appreciate all the thought, perseverance and hard work put in by Jim in organising such a superb reunion. We must also say that the support and encouragement of Margaret has played a key part in the success of this event. A very big thank-you to you both.

Dick would normally speak at this point in the reunion but, as most of you know, his wife has had a fall and, in consequence, he has had to withdraw from attending. I am sure that you will join with me in wishing his wife Peggy a speedy recovery and share my hope that Dick will be able to be with us at the next reunion.

Dick’s service number was 684999 – I was one behind him in the queue to be issued a number so mine was 685000, and in the Entry graduation list, I was one below him, so it looks as if fate has cast me to be always the bridesmaid to Dick’s bride. Although the thought of Dick’s hairy legs in a bridal gown does stretch the analogy a bit!

So, as Dick cannot be here, you get the bridesmaid. However, Dick will be with us in spirit and has asked me to read out the following brief message:

‘I’m sorry not to be able to be with you all this evening and I’m grateful for the messages of concern for my wife Peggy. She still has a long way to go but we will both be thinking of you all and I’ll raise my glass in the toast to Trenchard and Halton. I retain my strong bonds with you all. Delighted to meet up with John Yeomans again after 54 years – Friends for Life, all of us. Enjoy your evening.
Dick’

When the 91st was formed at Halton on 19 January 1959, we were little more than boys but when we graduated we were young men with 3 years of intensive training behind us. We could march and bull boots, we were familiar with names such as Alvis Leonides, Martin Baker and the unforgettable Mox alumino thermic soldering iron; we could repair an aircraft engine or hydraulic system; we understood electrical circuits and avionics; and we could saw and file with accuracy. We were also fully bilingual, being able to speak English and perfect Bullshit.

I don’t think that any of us would say that the 91st was a particularly illustrious entry – that accolade must surely belong to the entries who sacrificed so much during the Second World War – but, nevertheless, we went on to serve with distinction in an air force that was many times bigger than today, and was deployed all over the globe. Many of us became commissioned officers up to and including Air rank, even more became SNCOs and WOs, including one becoming the personal WO to the Chief of Air Staff. Sadly, some of our number paid the ultimate price of military service to the country.

We froze our **locks off on servicing pans during winters on bomber and fighter bases in the East of the UK, endured prickly heat in Singapore, luxuriated in the Middle Eastern paradise of Aden, and laboured in an endless series of Tacevals and Minivals in Germany. We also showed ourselves to be philanthropists by contributing in no small way to the economies of Bugis Street, the Gut, the Reeperbahn and the Wanchai.

Lord Trenchard intended that Halton apprentices would not only form the advanced technical backbone of the Air Force but have qualities such as leadership, sense of responsibility and pride of service that would fit them for a progressive career in the RAF. I submit that the 91st has delivered all this, and then some.

Moreover, after leaving the RAF, many of us went on to make huge contributions to the aviation industry, airlines, the defence and scientific establishments, light industry, the Civil Service, local government, schools, the police, pubs and no end of other enterprises. Our reach includes or has included New Zealand, Australia, the Seychelles, Canada, Kenya, the USA, France, PNG, Zimbabwe and, of course, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela.

We achieved much in our Service and Civilian careers but, at this point, we should reflect that the love and support of our wives, partners and families was a crucial contributor to any successes we had, and that enormous credit is due to them. Thank you, ladies, you did us proud!

In our spare time and particularly on retirement, the qualities of character that were developed at RAF Halton have allowed us to play active roles in ex-Service associations; social and sports clubs; youth groups; political organisations; charities; churches and special interest societies. And, as we have done since our apprentice days, and demonstrated this weekend, we have continued to boost the profitably of the British brewing industry.

By our service to the nation, our service to society and our service to our communities, we have made an indelible and enduring mark on the world. Lord Trenchard would have been proud of us. Against that backdrop, please charge your glasses, stand and I will offer you a toast – RAF Halton and Lord Trenchard.

If some you are wondering where the new banner came from, it was made for me by a good friend for one of the tees on my Captains Charity day.

The badge on the wall behind some of the photographs is interesting. It is in fact a rug, handmade for Al. Burton many years ago by Bette Collins who was chairman of the International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers. I am now looking into having it framed somehow before presenting it to the RAFHAA museum possibly.

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Many of you will now know that Halton is to close forever in 2022 with the training flight and all supporting staff leaving by 2020, relocating to RAF Cranwell. The fate of the Association as well as the windows in St Georges and the tribute etc is still to be decided

There will be no more triennials and in fact the last reunion of the association will be held in 2020 at the Arboretum to coincide with the centenary of Lord Trenchard's vision as well as being the 40th anniversary of the Association.

WE will be holding a reunion in 2019 to mark the 60th anniversary of our arrival at Halton. Venue has yet to be decided but possibilities will be looked at early in the New Year.

News has reached me that the film 'Allied' starring Brad Pitt is using Halton as a location. Will be interesting to see if any of it is recognisable in the film.

Nick Bale has had a look at the RAFHAA website and found that we feature THREE times on the site. I have put a link out to it on the links page so have a look and see if you can spot yourself.

I have now created a separate page for each member that sends me his life story - so come on - you all have a story to tell.

I have added a page listing those that are still missing. Have a look at the list and if you know of the whereabouts - or indeed any information - on any of them, please let me know.