THE 1957 INTAKES 50th ANNIVERSARY
by Roger (Trixie) Traves (57A)
On Friday 20 July 07 the heavens opened up with a deluge of rain whilst hundreds of Arborfield Old Boys (AOBs) were making their way to Arborfield Garrison for the 44th AOBA Reunion, including 40 from the 57A & 57B intakes. The lads had travelled from the four corners of the world only to find that all roads leading into Arborfield were cut off by floodwaters. Many also got caught up in the UKs road, rail and airports infrastructure failures. I phoned Bill Cleasby from Wokingham and got the bad news that the Prince Philip Hall at the REME Museum of Technology was under 2 foot of water and a wheely bin had just floated passed his window.
Bill’s advice was to stay where you are, have a cup of tea and try to get in later. Why do we always solve our problems with a cup of tea? Mick Heslop and I decided to leave Wokingham and drive through 2 to 3 foot of water on the Barkham Road, thankfully we made it and eventually arrived in a water drenched Garrison.
It was now too late for us to visit the Bramshill Hunt our agreed meeting point before booking into camp, however we found out later that quite a few managed to get there on time. Those stalwarts with water wings were Peter Corbett (57B) Fred Ordnyski, Jim Woollam and I believe a few others.
I must report that Eric Broomhall was the only 57er who was AWOL because of the floods. Eric was driving for 10 hours attempting to get into Arborfield, he even tried to get to his sisters, which was close to Arborfield, to stop the night and arrive Saturday morning. NO Luck, so headed back to Kent, totally dejected (and that’s putting it politely!!). The rest passed their initiative test and got into Arborfield, albeit some arrived late or got in on the Saturday. Chris Kemp who travelled in from Germany asked for transport from Wokingham station. Sorry, no chance was the answer, so what did he do? Yes he walked in, and when he got to the floods on the Barkham Road he politely took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his trousers and waded across to a waiting taxi, which delivered him to the guardroom. What a sham I thought he could walk on water. The Sgt’s Mess Annex where most of the 57ers had booked their accommodation was flooded, so hastily they were transferred into the transit accommodation. It was like old times as the lads were allocated bed spaces in 10 and 4 men rooms. After getting unpacked, beds made up i.e. duvets and pillows into covers (what no blankets and bed blocks) and block jobs done, it was time to literally paddle across to the Sgt’s Mess.
It was surprising to find the mess reasonably busy considering the Garrison was marooned from the rest of civilisation. Once the drinks were ordered the albums and odd photos appeared, which jogged memories into yesteryear. It was soon noticed that these strange men in scarlet tunics were sat next to us, yes Chelsea Pensioners. Bloody hell that’s Dougie Huxley Grenadier Guards our CSM of C Coy. Needless to say much time was spent reminiscing with Doug about drill and Coy life.
In the photo two C Coy CSMs reunited A/CSM Dave Cahill (57A) and CSM Dougie Huxley. Later on into the evening after most had just about recognised their ageing buddies and the drink had loosened their tongues, the lamps never stopped swinging. During all this Jim Gardner and I were trying to kit the 57ers out with their 50th anniversary ties and Panama hats ready for the Saturday parade. Before we knew it, it was 1a.m. and time for bed. In our 10-man room we couldn’t get to sleep because of the noise coming from the other side of the room. I went to investigate with the intention to shut them up, but when I saw Johnny Glasspool, Derek Wheatland & Tez Cahill dancing around virtually naked with just T-Shirts on, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Lugs Roberts had just given the T-shirts to them. On the front was 1957 50th Anniversary Reunion 2007 also the AAS badge and 57B, on the back a photo of the lad when he was 15 with his name, trade, Coy and 57B. Herbie Herbert and I got one as well, but mine had Jim Woollam’s photo on the back with the name “Trixie”. Reluctantly I gave my T-shirt to Jim because it was his photo on it and it was him that got me the nickname of Trixie in the first place. So it’s not Mary Woollam anymore, it’s now Trixie Woollam. Got my revenge at last. Well done lugs for designing the T-shirt and surprising the lads, we might get some more shirts made for our 50th anniversary with the Hadrians Old Boys (HOB) at Carlisle.
We woke up on Saturday morning to find the floodwaters had receded enough for us to use the path around the lake, which is a shorter route to get to the mess for our breakfast.
After a good hearty breakfast it was time to disappear and get dressed ready for parade. During this time more old boys werearriving including some of our 57ers, Robin Coppard, Brian Glossop, Keith Allcock and Joe O’Brien. Unfortunately some of those who said they were attending didn’t for several reasons, they were George Timms, Jim Fox, Jim Hamill, Peter Corbett (57A) and Johnny Pover, however lads hope you can manage to get to next years reunion, love to see you there. Transport was laid on to take some to Rowcroft Barracks for the parade, but unfortunately Dougie Huxley slipped getting into the minibus and gashed his leg badly. First aid was soon at hand to stop the bleeding but eventually it was decided that he would have to go to hospital.
What some people will do just to miss a parade never surprises me. You never taught us that one Dougie when you were CSM of C Coy.
Joking apart Dougie got back to us nicely patched up in time for the dinner evening. The rest of us managed to negotiate the footbridge, avoid large puddles and the mud-laden paths walking into Rowcroft barracks. We congregated behind the old HQ Coy block at the top end of the old square, which we use to pound daily in the late fifties and maybe on Saturday afternoons for Rodeo if you were found to be idle. Our reminiscing soon stopped when we heard what we thought were 2 very nice REME Warrant Officers, CSM David Williams & RQMS Richard Dickson barked out “Get fell into 3 ranks” That sounded a bit familiar! Before we knew it we were marching on to the square behind the Reading Pipe Band, some of us in step and swinging our arms, but the pace was a bit slow for us young fit uns of 57 era. The reviewing officer this year was Col Richard Bennett MVO the Regimental Colonel for the Corps of REME. He was accompanied by the AOBA Chairman Col Brian Hutchings, the parade commander, Col Peter Gibson and the Corps ASM Mr Jim Walker for the review.
A relaxed inspection took place with many a joke and serious accounts of past service. Col Richard addressed the parade before taking the salute for the march past. The Drum Head Service followed at the Memorial Garden and was conducted by the Revd A A Coslett CF. Unfortunately the Lower Early Salvation Army Band didn’t turn up until halfway through the service, however this did not spoil the gusto in how we sung “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer”. Bill Cleasby gave the reading from the scriptures and just after prayers Fred Mills read out the names of those AOBs who had passed away over the last year.
Wooden crosses with poppies bearing their names and intakes were planted in the Memorial Garden. The Corps ASM started the Act of Remembrance followed by the bugler sounding the last post and piper playing Flowers of the Forest Lament, then the 2 minutes silence. The service continued with The Lord’s my Shepherd, Prayers, the National Anthem and concluded with the Blessing. Fortunately the weather held just long enough for everyone to get to the barbecue again held in the School of Electronic and Aeronautical Engineering (SEAE) Regimental Restaurant. Everyone by this time was gasping for a drink and the beers were soon flowing well. The barbecue had just started when Paul Tyrell the photographer decided that he needed to get all the 57ers together outside on the steps for a group photograph while the weather held. Some had to be pulled out of the food queues and others from their meals they had already started. After a bit of moaning (in a joking manner of course!) “Do we have to” 37 of the 57ers assembled for the photo, which turned out to be a series of photos, because everybody brought their own cameras with them. Photos completed everybody returned to enjoy the barbecue. Recharged with beer the photo albums came out again and our thoughts switched back to our younger years when the Army practised baby snatching. Whilst the reminiscing continued nobody noticed that the heavens had opened up again. It continued to rain until 4pm while most were visiting the SEAE Workshops, REME museum and Shop. Afternoon Tea in the Restaurant was followed by the AGM in the Lecture Theatre. This followed the usual format with a couple of points to note:
1) No decision has yet been made when the Arborfield Garrison will close. However, it is likely to remain open for several more years, so hopefully our reunions can continue at Arborfield until REME finally move to their new location.
2) It was unanimously voted that the AOBA annual subscription be increased from £10 to £15 starting from next year.
After any other business Fred Ordnyski (57B) presented a plaque and letter to the Chairman on behalf of the RAEME Association, Western Australia (WA) Branch. Fred some months ago asked the Committee of the RAEME Association, WA Branch, if he could purchase a plaque to present to the AOBA as a momento of his visit. The President, John Klein, said “That they could do better than that. The Association would present a plaque to him to present to the AOBA President, as a gesture of the brotherhood that exists between REME and RAEME, especially the AOBA, as they have at least 6 old boys as members in Perth.” He was also to mention that any AOBA member visiting WA would be made most welcome. The presentations were photographed in WA and Arborfield.
The Chairman throughout the meeting kept a tight reign on questions. No more than five per item, so the meeting was soon over giving more time for rest and suite change in time to assemble in the mess for the dinner evening. It came to light after the AGM that several AOBs gave up looking for the lecture theatre and eventually retired to their rooms.
The majority got back to the mess for quick pint before dinner call only to find that Mike Green (57A) had turned up, late as usual. We originally had 43 of the 57 intakes sitting down for dinner, but 4 of them at the last minute had to cancel. The actual attendance of 57ers over the whole weekend was a total of 40, with 39 attending the dinner. The dining area was again very well laid out to take approximately 230 AOBs. Tonight the 39 attending 57ers were on top table, plus our special guest Dougie Huxley, Jim Gardner our nominated Guest Speaker sitting next to the AOBA Chairman and the Chief Guest. Grace was given in verse, gracefully executed and very amusingly, by The Reverend Bev John (66A).
Before we sat down the Chairman announced that jackets could be removed (planters order for the old Far East fellas). As we settled down the four-course dinner was expertly served and wineglasses filled by the staff, while the Stephen Nye Quintet played a selection of music. After the forth course the Secretary Bill Cleasby announced a 10 minute interval, during which coffee and mints were served and the port glasses charged for the toasts. Mr Vice, Keith Evans announced the toasts to: The Queen, Our Colonel in Chief Prince Philip and Absent Friends. Now the speeches. First our Chairman Brian Hutchings. This was pretty brief and straight to the point with a sting in the tail for those that didn’t attend the AGM, as he announced the annual subscription increased from £10 to £15 per annum. The second speech was from our Chief Guest Col Richard Bennett MVO, Regimental Colonel for the Corps of REME. He spoke on many an interesting subject which we could all relate to, especially how REME is coping in the current Gulf and Afghanistan theatres. Our third and last speaker was our very own 57er Jim Gardner. When Jim produced 5 pages of A4 paper and said under his breath “Power at last”;
I thought hello, we’re going to be here for a little while longer. True enough it lasted well over half an hour, but to give Jim credit he remembered, relived and reminded us all of our apprenticeship days with great enthusiasm. I certainly could relate to the shock of meeting guys I couldn’t understand, eating the cookhouse delights slapped onto our plates, being kicked into shape for drill and turnout, also realising the importance of bonding and camaraderie. The 57 intakes total more than 360 boys and if we add those transferred from AAS Chepstow and those who were relegated to us the total would be just short of 400.
Most completed their 9 years in the colours and many continued for a full service career, progressing up the ranks, some taking commissions and some even transferring to other Corps like the Royal Engineers, Pioneers, Education, Ordnance and Medical Corps etc. It’s also surprising how 57ers have colonised the world, they can now be found in Australia, USA, Canada, South Africa, Germany, Holland, Spain, Malta and many other countries Jim’s references to all the instructors giving us initial grounding and shaping for our future careers was very commendable and the same recognition was given direct to Dougie Huxley ex Grenadier Guards, CSM of C Coy was unanimously accepted and applauded by all. On a sad note the deaths of Ben Allhouse & Hugh Hind were announced.
Comments were then made about me for the work in tracing and keeping contact records of our intakes; this was followed with a presentation of a bottle of whisky. Many thanks lads it was most unexpected but well appreciated. Next came sport achievements by 57ers that ranged from boxing, football, rugby and basketball, but a special mention was given to Brian Glossop for representing REME & the Army at boxing throughout his Army career. The pinnacle of sporting excellence is to represent your country at the Olympics. Jim Fox (57B) achieved that in 1976 at the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada when he became an Olympic Gold Medallist in the Modern Pentathlon event.
I cannot mention everything that our speaker said, but I will conclude by reiterating Jim’s sentiments at the end of his speech, whilst the audience were trying to get him to finish. Our apprentice training here in Arborfield produced the bedrock for us to build on, in the pursuit of our future careers and it contributed to the success in our civilian lives. So we do have a great deal to be thankful for when it comes to the AAS Arborfield. There is only one thing left to do and that is: At this point Jim started to sing “The Reds are here” and the whole room in unison joined in. At the end of the singing there was an applause for Jim and then a rush to get out to the bar.
The evening continued into the early hours.
We woke up Sunday morning with bright sunlight shining through the windows and most of us suffering with hangovers. It was time for quick ablutions, strip beds (old habits die hard!) pack ready to vacate rooms and get to breakfast. Some had already left to catch transport while the majority waited for a relaxed breakfast, during which farewells were said. A small number of AOBs attended the church service.
Another Reunion weekend has come and gone and this particular weekend nearly became a disaster because of the extreme weather conditions. Bill’s wet weather programme was nearly tested, in fact at one point it must have been close to cancelling everything, except of course, to keep the bar open for a 2-day piss up, perhaps that wasn’t such a bad idea! Looking back now, how the hell everybody got to Arborfield and how we managed to keep to the programme was a miracle, (well nearly!!). I know one thing, without the AOBA Committee nothing would be possible, so on behalf of everybody a big thank you for all your hard work and efforts in keeping this merry band of brothers together. The Committee rely on the services of the military and civilian staff in the Garrison. So Committee, please pass on our grateful thanks to them for their contribution. I would like to personally thank Bill, Keith & Fred for their assistance over the past year whilst I was co-ordinating the 57 intakes. The success of the reunion can be measured in the numbers of letters, e-mails and phone calls received. I know I have received a record number and many are still talking to me about the weekend and want to come back again next year.
To conclude just a few points:
The 50th anniversary tie designed and produced by Jim Gardner has raised some interest, however to answer one of the more negative points raised i.e. Why has another tie been produced when we already have a suitable tie for the AOBA? Answer: This tie is not an AOBA tie; it is a one off product, designed for the 57 intake lads to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
A special mention for those 57ers who travelled in from abroad: From Australia (Fred Ordnyski & Peter Drake) USA (Peter Corbett 57B) and those from Europe (Chris Kemp, Mick Oulds, Mike Carn & Norman Jackson). Your attendance was special and much appreciated by us UK residing types.
Another mention must be given to name sakes and we have two: The Cahill’s & Corbett’s. To identify common surnames we often used the individuals last 2 of their regimental number i.e. Smith 19 or Jones 25. In the case of Cahill and Corbett luckily we can identify them by A or B intake: Dave Cahill (57A) & Tez Cahill (57B) also Peter (Always known as Harry) Corbett (57A) and Peter Corbett (57B)
Apologies have been received from the following 18 x 57ers:
John Morgan, Geoff Flindall, Jim Hamilton, Robert Lee, David Follett, Jim Stares, Jim Cliff, Ian Forbes, John Higgins, Derek Driver, Bill Tudman, Peter Corbett (57A) Jim Hamill, Rod Newbury, Alan Clasby, Roger Hoskins, Peter Jones & John Pudge. Hope to see some of you at future reunions.
We are in contact with 62 of the 57 Heinz Variety breed and we are fully committed to find many more. Also with the successful find of Dougie Huxley we hope to find more permanent staff. We believe this year 2007 that the 57ers have broken a record by having 40 of their intake back in Arborfield to attend their 50th anniversary, so you other jeeps out there, the maker is in the sand, 40 to beat. The names of those who attended the AOBA 44th reunion can be found in the attendance lists as published in OBAN.
Back row: Les Fountain, Chris Kemp, Arthur Gibson, Peter Corbett (57B) Mike Carn, Barry Baxter, Keith Allcock,
Vince Fuller, Dave Cahill, Peter Mc Guiggan, Tom Webber, Fred Ordnyski, Bob Sleep, Les Mungeam
Centre row: Roger Traves, Ray Walker, Peter Drake, Bob Sisson, Mick O’Driscoll, Brad Cockwell, Mick Oulds,
Brian Glossop, Ken Wilson
Front row: Jim Woollam, George Vince, Dave Roberts, Tez Cahill. Johnny Glasspool, Herbie Herbert, Derek Wheatland,
Jim Gardner, Mick Heslop
Kneeling: Bob Wilcockson, Peter Church, Joe O’Brien Sitting: Jim Hynes, Norman Jackson
Copyright : Roger (Trixie) Traves (57A)