The 2010 Triennial coincided with the Reunion to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the arrival at Halton of the 96th Entry. Although plans to organise this event were put into action soon after our last Reunion in 2008, sadly it was discovered that not for the first time in history there was no room at the Inn — the Holiday Inn at Aston Clinton that is. So the Holiday Inn at High Wycombe was selected as a suitable venue.
Several members plus partners turned up on the Friday night and some of them joined up with others for the programme of events taking place at Halton the following day. Still more people arrived during the course of Saturday until the number of attendees stood at 86 members and partners. Sadly there was no Chas Marshall this year as he had been called to his final posting during the first week of the year. His widow, Jenny, was welcomed by all.
The following morning saw some 22 members at Halton for the Triennial, whilst the WAGs pursued other activities. Those who attended the Triennial were treated to another fine display from the Golden Oldies. One of the Barrack Blocks was opened for us to examine today’s living conditions. Imagine – those lino floors, which we polished, bumpered and then polished again until we had achieved a mirror finish, were carpeted. Gone too were those familiar wooden wardrobes and bedside lockers in favour of what looked to be IKEA units. In the Ablutions area we saw washing machines, and there was a launderette in a neighbouring building.
Following a very pleasant 2 course lunch in a somewhat crowded Henderson Mess, the Entries “fell in” for the Sunset Ceremony. While we were formed up in what could be described, loosely, as a Parade formation, we heard that evocative sound of a Merlin engine. Air Marshal Cliff Spink (104th) treated us to a spectacular display of low level flying and aerobatics as he threw his Spitfire across Halton.
With a final low pass over Henderson Parade Ground, a waggle of the wings, and he was away towards Wendover. He then “beat up” the Airfield at low level before disappearing into the distance whence he had come.
The Entries then marched down the hill, across Main Point, and to St George’s Church for the customary service. This was a change from previous years when the events began at the Airfield and were followed by a march across Main Point and up the Hill. Given that a large proportion of those present were in their 80’s and 90’s, this was probably a wise decision. There followed the drive back to the hotel for the celebration of our Anniversary.
The evening’s revels began with a “meet and greet” in the bar (where else would a Brat look to find his fellows?). This was followed by a welcoming speech from Alfie Burton who was top of the Entry’s Order of Merit. At the last Reunion it was decided to produce a book of the collection of as many Member’s memories as could be encouraged and this was undertaken by Gerry Law, Tony Robson and Dave Murray. Gerry said a few words concerning the book and then we all began “swinging the lamp” in the best tradition of Bratdom. Copies of “The Book” were distributed to those who had pre-ordered – and to some who had not!
Stan John, in full regalia, piped the attendees into dinner and John Baldwin narrated a humorous ditty reflecting our time at Halton. A transcript of John’s ditty can be found on the web site. The effects of the food and wine on the waistlines were then worked off on the dance floor where the Les Payne Band provided music to jive/bop/dance to. In all some 86 members and their partners attended the weekend.
The 96th Entry Reunions have been organised for many years by Merv Kelly and Gordon Sherratt, ably supported by their respective spouses, Pat and Ann. As a token of appreciation for a job well done they were presented with a set of matching, engraved wine glasses.
The facilities at the hotel could not be faulted – we even had our own bar so that we did not have to join in the general scrum of the public bar. Another pleasant surprise! Roy Spiers and Dave Mawdsley, who had both been unable to commit to attending the Reunion, but nevertheless were able to pop in for a quick visit.
On the Sunday a group of the Entry visited the Museum where a copy of “The Book” was presented to Francis Hanford for archiving, thereby ensuring that the memories of the 96th are preserved for all of eternity — or maybe longer. Everyone who attended the Reunion signed the Autograph page of the Museum copy, thereby preserving a unique piece of 96th history for posterity.
The Book originated as an idea of Dave (Dai) Murray at the 2008 Reunion. He and Gerry agreed to undertake the project and they were joined by Tony Robson. For 2 years the membership was encouraged/cajoled/threatened to produce their memories and eventually a volume of 200 pages of A4 was produced. A print run of 80 copies was deemed to be viable and so it is with pleasure that we are able to report that only 1 copy remains uncommitted! Additionally, the costs of producing “The Book” were recovered from the sales, allowing a donation to Entry Fund to be made.
During the after Dinner chat, several members made suggestions/comments that perhaps another book could be produced for the next Reunion, currently mooted for 2013, when we celebrate 50 years since Graduation. This book would contain accounts of individuals after they left Halton and so would provide a snapshot of how the 96th Entry helped to win the Cold War, and other conflicts.
At some point in the not too distant future, the membership will be canvassed for their views and their willingness to produce a submission. In the meantime, please give the matter some thought. All feedback will be welcome.
As always, this Reunion would not have taken place without the tireless efforts of Merv, Pat, Gordon and Ann and we thank them for ensuring that our 50th Anniversary celebrations were so successful. Absent on parade were Robbie and Jude Honnor currently living in Cyprus but still looking after the Entry web site.