96th Entry Stained Glass Window

© 96th Entry

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To see pictures of our window installed at St George’s Church and how it was made please refer to our Gallery pages.

To learn more about the church and to see all the windows please refer to ‘The Pheonix Project’ book by Stephen and Margaret Pays and also use these links:

www.raf.mod.uk/rafhalton/aboutus/stgeorgeschurch.cfm

www.oldhaltonians.co.uk/pages/rememb/windows/windows.htm

Following is a transcript of the address delivered by Rob Honnor during the service of dedication on 7 November 2004 to mark the installation of our window.

“We came to Halton to learn and one of the first things that was drummed into me those many years ago was - NEVER VOLUNTEER TO DO NOTHING. That being a double negative and me not being very bright at the time, I took it as it read and not as it was implied. It has kept me very busy ever since.


At last year's reunion (Note - Sept 2003) it was suggested that we should have an Entry web-site. Knowing absolutely nothing about how you would generate and publish a web-site I volunteered to do one, on the basis, how difficult can it be for a Halton Apprentice. We now have our web-site, which is not only a focal point for the Entry, but also links to many other entries, so helping to strengthen that unique Halton Apprentice bond.


As a direct result of the web-site we have found many lost souls, but also we have sadly confirmed the demise of others.


Mervyn Kelly, our valiant secretary and co-chairman, then asked me to give him a hand with this window project. We trawled you for ideas and it was difficult knowing which of the many to keep and which to leave out, but we have ended up with an extremely fine window to dedicate this morning.


It was then mooted that someone had to stand here today to talk about our Entry, its achievements and to tell the story of our window. I was promptly volunteered again on the basis that having done the two previous jobs, I probably knew as much as anyone about the Entry and the Window.


You would have thought by now I would have learnt to anticipate these things and take one pace smartly backwards, but no - it is a privilege to be so closely involved in these projects and with good people like Merv and our other co-chairman Gordon Sherratt, whose unselfish efforts ensure gatherings like this weekend run so smoothly. Nor must we forget Frank Baldry who maintains the contact lists that help reunite our people after all this time.


Story of the Window

The Spitfire and Hurricane in silhouette at the top of the window and the year 1940 remind us that the majority of us signed on the dotted line on 15th September 1960 , exactly 20 years to the day after the Battle of Britain.


Our wing colours of yellow (3-wing) and red (1-wing) are background for the dates 1960 to 1963, the years we spent at Halton and echoed behind the row of brass wheels at the bottom of the window.


Three of the four brass wheels are backed with our Squadron-Flight colours of red, green and pale blue.


The first wheel has a unique purple infill, which signifies the time a 96th Entry raiding party 'enhanced' the fountains in Trafalgar Square by dosing them with potassium permanganate, a well planned event, the outcome of which was reported in the national press, but blamed on Ban-the-Bomb protestors who were demonstrating that weekend. A later apprentice entry copied the stunt using detergent, producing lots of foam and soap bubbles, also shown on their window. (Note - The full story behind this escapade is told on THIS PAGE).


Our Entry had a full set of trades - Airframes, Engines, Electrics, Instruments and Armament and these are represented in our window by that invaluable tool, the universal monkey wrench or fully adjustable spanner, such a precision tool that would never be used on aircraft now, although it was probably the tool of choice in Trenchard's day.


We also had Dental Technicians in our Entry, only the 2nd such apprentice intake at the time, and to represent them we have an articulator, which is a clever mechanical jaw that ensured that the sets of plastic gnashers they were trained to make, intermeshed correctly in accordance with complex geometric rules. So if your falsies don't fit too well then maybe they weren't made according to the exacting RAF standards.


The centre-piece of the window illustrates the occasion when, as senior entry, the 96th was privileged to provide ushers, a Guard of Honour and the Queen's Colour Party for the formal parade and Service of Dedication of the new St George's Church in July 1963.

The Halton Apprentice Colour Party is unique in that the standard is paraded by non-commissioned ranks only. Here we see Sgt Apprentice Jock Duff as colour bearer, escorted by L/Apps Dave Sinclair and Trevor Taylor (Note - most easily recognisable on the right as drawn).


The background to the Colour Party is the church pews and the main church window with plain glass, as it was at the time of the church dedication in 1963, without the superb blaze of colour you see now.


The 96th Entry window design is therefore unique in having the original church window incorporated into its church window, which is then incorporated into the current church window to commemorate the original event. (Read it again - it makes perfect sense).


There should have been some drifting snow shown in the design just above the row of wheel badges to remind you of that long harsh winter of 1962/63 when after struggling back to camp after Xmas grant, we spent so much time shovelling the stuff, but it obviously melted in the kiln on the real window.


The window also includes our Entry shield, designed (Note - we think) by Dudley Denham. The motto ‘Quam Celerrime’ translates loosely as ‘With Greatest Speed’ hence the legendary rapid spotty cat – it's a cheetah. What we were chasing then and why I have no idea, but I find the motto becomes increasingly significant as each year passes at a seemingly greater rate of knots.


The black frame to the shield is to remind us of those members we have lost along life's way.


There were so many other notable events that we were unable to put into the window, such as route lining and other parades in London, including the unveiling of the Lord Trenchard memorial, trips to Earls Court and Wimbledon, summer camp on Dartmoor, adventure weekends, the brass and pipe bands, etc - which I must leave to your memories.

Graduation

Our graduation report tells of our achievements, far too many to cover in detail in the short time I have today, but just let me say that according to record, 198 apprentices took final exams, 3 officer cadetships were awarded, 4 apprentices graduated as full Cpls and there were 130 accelerated promotions recommended, including me, that is 2/3rds of the Entry, a figure only surpassed by one other entry. 2 apprentices were discharged and 2 were back-entried, but we were topped up by a few retreads from earlier entries.


Along with the extensive academic and sporting awards gained, these results were stated by the Commandant as being remarkable achievements.


Sir John Hunt, the Reviewing Officer, encouraged us to ‘…stand by the courage of your convictions, be not afraid of the future and to go out and make your own mark in life…’ I think the splendid training we had at Halton has allowed most of us to do just that.


In closing I would just like to remind you that the training we were given as Halton apprentices is still considered to be the best in the world. It has given me and I know many others here, the confidence and ability to take life by the scruff of the neck, to take on challenges other people have shied away from and to make an unqualified success of them.


The Halton Apprentice - he can do anything - and he always will to the best of his ability - he never volunteers to do nothing - he normally gets on with it before he is ever asked.”