The 2006 Reunion was another outstanding success for the Arborfield Old Boys Association. Like the annual migration of lemmings over 200 old boys and their families travelled from all around the world to Arborfield in attending the event. Although the gates to the camp were not opened until 1700hrs many had travelled to arrive early at that well-known watering establishment the Bramshill Hunt. As this was to be one of the warmest English summers with temperatures in the low 30’s the landlord did a roaring trade there in quenching the thirst of these parched travellers some having travelled from as far a field as Australia, Canada and the European mainland as well as a number of itinerants from Ireland, Scotland and Wales!
Once the gates had been opened there was a flurry of activity at the Bailleul Sgts’ Mess as members arrived to register and find their bed spaces for the weekend. Registration was completed quickly and efficiently thanks to the efforts of the Honorary Secretary Bill Cleasby 6C and Assistant Secretary Keith Evans 45A capably assisted by the Membership Secretary Fred Mills 51B and Phil Graham 71C. The Treasurer Mike Davies 60B was also on hand to ensure that financial matters were in order. Once everyone had found their sleeping accommodation and changed they quickly found their ways to the bar in the Sgts’ Mess to meet up with old comrades and start swapping tales of daring in days gone past. Later in the evening they were all able to enjoy a splendid curry buffet supper laid on for them by the Mess chefs and catering staff. Although some members retired early to bed many others continued supporting the bar in to the early hours of the next morning.
Perhaps typically of the time spent all those years ago at Arborfield and although most had enjoyed only a few hours in bed those was no shortage of old boys queuing eagerly awaiting their breakfast. Although the curry supper had been enjoyed only a few hours earlier many plates were overfilled with bacon, sausages, black pudding, hash browns, baked beans, tinned tomatoes, scrambled and fried eggs accompanied by toast and marmalade with gallons of tea (now without the bromide) being quaffed down. Then it was time to get dressed and prepare for the Reunion Parade. After a quick cup of coffee everyone made his or her way from the Sgts’ Mess to the site of the old camp in Rowcroft Barracks. With temperatures already starting to climb jackets were soon removed and shelter sought under the trees awaiting the arrival of the Garrison RSM. Within no time at all he and his regimental staff soon had everyone formed including three old boys who are now Chelsea Pensioners. After a little drill practice the RSM was satisfied with both the turnout and the drill so the Association marched onto parade to await the arrival of and subsequent inspection by DEME(A) Brigadier Nigel Williams MBE ADC.
After the parade and inspection the Association marched from the new square up the Nuffield Road to the Memorial Garden for a Drum Head service. The two minute silence in honour of those ex-apprentices no longer living is always a poignant occasion as every old boy stood there each with his own memories and recollections of time spent at Arborfield even though the original structure of the camp no longer stands and all that is left is a bare patch of concrete and tarmac that was once the RSMs hallowed ground! Once over and pleased to be able to take off jackets and ties in the hot humid weather conditions prevailing everyone made their way to the Regimental Restaurant in Hazebrouck Barracks for a Barbecue Lunch. As old boys and families started to gather around tables in the open air outside the restaurant the weather changed dramatically as a thunderstorm struck and torrential rain poured down lowering the temperature considerably.
Fortunately Colonel Bill had foreseen such an event happening and a wet weather program was quickly switched to with full use being made of the restaurant kitchens and dining areas. Once lunch was over members were able to visit both the REME Museum of Technology and also some displays within SEAE of the Air Systems and Land Systems branches.
The Annual General Meeting of the Arborfield Old Boys Association followed this at 1700hrs. By its conclusion there then little time left for everyone to prepare themselves for pre dinner drinks in the Sgts’ Mess. In what seemed no time at all some 220 old boy where piped into the Reunion Dinner to enjoy not only some good food and wine but also one another’s company where more tales of day gone bye where recollected. During the Dinner we where entertained by the REME Corps TA Band who played a lively selection of music culminating in the Corps march Lily Bolero.
Peter Gripton as the spokesman for those who joined the Army Apprentices’ School in 1956 regaled us with his Scouse wit telling of his career at Arborfield and beyond. After the dinner everyone naturally retired to the bar where they kept the bar staff busy until the early hours of Sunday.
Despite the amount of ale quaffed and stories told there was no shortage of those enjoying breakfast that morning before attending the Reunion Service at the Garrison Church. After a final cup of coffee normality and tranquillity returned yet once again in Arborfield as everyone made there way home – well satisfied with yet another Arborfield Old Boys Reunion.