THE 1959 INTAKES 50th ANNIVERSARY
by Mike Muir (59A)
Being a fairly new recruit to the A.O.B.A. and even newer to the task of being our year coordinator it was with some trepidation that I set out for Arborfield to attend my first reunion so you can imagine my horror just before the parade on Saturday morning when the group of 59ers I was chatting with was approached by Tich Schofield to be informed that it was the usual practice for someone from the anniversary year to write the notes about the reunion for the O.B.A.N. As I was the slowest to react and take a step backwards I was left with little alternative but to smile at Tich and say O.K. Since this is my first attempt to add to any publication I trust that you will bear with me if I start to ramble or commit too many faux pas.
Since we were informed that we should not arrive at Arborfield before 1700hrs, I had decided to travel south down the M5 so that I could visit an old apprentice friend who was unable to attend the week-end reunion and so avoid the pleasure of the M25 on a Friday tea time. I still met plenty of traffic but there were no serious hold ups and I managed to reach Warminster by mid afternoon. We had a very pleasant visit and I was revived by the rest and a good chat over a refreshing cup of tea. On leaving Warminster, however, the fun and games began. My friend had informed me that I should reach Arborfield in a little over an hour so I felt I had plenty of time before my rendezvous with another member of my division in the car park at 1830hrs. To my concern it took me just under 2 hours to arrive and I had about 5 minutes to spare but I was still the first to arrive. While waiting in the car park I stood outside the car to enjoy a cup of coffee which I had brought with me and just about everyone who arrived commented on how heavy the traffic was just about all over the country, but at least everyone made it eventually if somewhat later than expected. When my fellow division member arrived serenity returned and we sailed through booking in, moved into our rooms, freshened up and were then raring to go for the evening function.
Once we were in the Mess, after a wander round the camp to try to get our bearings, I found it quite disconcerting how few people I recognized straight off and I was very pleased that we were all wearing name badges so I could avoid too many mistaken identities.
I don’t know if others felt the same as me but it certainly did not seem to detract from the pleasure of the evening and from the reports the next morning the drinking went on perhaps a little longer than it should have done.
Saturday dawned bright and clear with a good weather forecast and the day could really not have been better. After a leisurely breakfast we all had plenty of time to get ourselves sorted out before going to the Mess for coffee. The breakfast was a real pleasure and really set us up for the day which I personally found to be quite emotionally tiring.
Once everyone had gathered in the Mess the call was made for us all to make our way over to Rowcroft Barracks. Transport was available for our less able comrades but the majority of us preferred to walk over the bridge to get our legs moving. As we all gathered behind the old Junior Company block there was much hilarity and joking and this is where we met WOII (R.Q.M.S.) McDavid and his assistant C/Sgt. Gannon who were standing in for the R.S.M. They did a wonderful job in sorting the 135 members on parade into 2 sections and then keeping control of the whole parade without once losing their sense of humour even when someone’s mobile ‘phone rang during the inspection.
We were delighted to have Colonel Alistair Duncan, Chief of Staff DEME (A) to take the salute and after his inspection, where he took a great deal of time to speak to a great number of those on parade, he complemented the parade on their turn-out but we assume it was a bit tongue in cheek when he compared us favourably with the serving soldiers doing public duties in London.
During the parade it became very hot and we were glad of the water which was available but most of us who did not have any headwear caught the sun.
Following the inspection we marched past and then carried on down to the Memorial Garden where the Drum Head service was held. In all honesty at times I was not sure if we were marching or doing the soft shoe shuffle but the typical military humour prevailed and, I think, everyone enjoyed themselves.
The service was very nostalgic and I know I caught my breath once or twice but still well worth the effort of attending. Fred Mills 51B read out the list of Old Boys lost to use since the last time we stood together in front of the Garden of Remembrance. Before we all left the Memorial Garden we gathered for the Reunion photograph. This led to many somewhat ribald comments as the photographer seemed to have trouble with his camera while he was up in the hoist. From the parade we made our way back to the Mess for a nice cold beer and a BBQ lunch which was well up to remembered standards.
After the lunch we had a couple of hours when we could please ourselves and most spent time going round the Corps Museum. As part of the museum building now comprises the old apprentice school guard room I found it somewhat surreal to sit and have a cup of tea on the veranda.
Next on the agenda was a light tea before the business end of the week-end in the form of the A.G.M. The meeting was well controlled and so did not drag on which allowed us plenty of time to shower and change before the Reunion Dinner.
As always on these occasions when the 207 members and guests sat down to dinner the music was splendid, the wine flowed and the meal was superb.
For various reasons this was the first time that I have ever been seated at the top table and I felt it a great privilege to be there amongst so many of my peers who have achieved so much.
After the meal we were given an up-date on the Corps by the C.A.S.M. which put in perspective the proposed move to St. Athans over the next few years. The dinner finished about on schedule but the lights in the Mess were kept swinging into the early hours.
No report on the Reunion Week – end would be complete without a tremendous word of thanks to the whole A.O.B.A. committee without whose tireless work the Reunion would not be possible. The organization was, as always, first class and was a credit to all involved. As I am sat at home now I keep thinking back to the past week-end and I am already looking forward to next year when I would hope to meet up with even more old friends.
Mike Muir 59A.
100% Attendance Of Intake 59B.
That certainly sounds like a good heading for any intake in it’s 50th year. Sadly as we all know, statistics don’t always tell the whole truth.
We must make a concerted effort over the next twelve months,to get more of our intake signed up to the association (If we can track any down), as we only have five old boys on the books ,and we did manage to get all five in attendance.
We had Barry Williams, Don Allen and myself from A Coy, plus our A/T/RSM Chris Jeffery from B Coy and Tom Pearce from C Coy, although he spent most of his time in Junior Coy.
We have all come across old mates at these reunions and been greeted with the old line “you haven’t changed a bit”, but it always sounds a bit bizarre when you haven’t met for 47 years, and you now wear glasses, and what remains of your hair has totally changed colour, plus your barrel chest is now no more than sunken treasure and you change your teeth every five years so they don’t rattle when you speak.
We were one of those divisions that had it’s numbers decimated , when half of it’s intake was redeployed to AAS Carlisle when that opened, so that dropped our numbers down to less than 60 when we did eventually pass out in 1962.
Although Barry, Tom and myself did meet up at what was supposed to be the “very last” parade on our own square in 2004, we had not met up with Chris who was a member at the time, or Don who has only joined us in the last year. Like so many ex-boys on completion of their service, Don had turned the page on his Army days and confined it to history, but luckily for us,on reaching that age when you start to reminisce he has come back into the fold.
Although all our intake members were present,sadly we never all got together once over the weekend – a photo momento would have been a nice thing, maybe the reasons being that Barry and Don live locally so to speak, and Chris presumably was accommodated in the Officers Mess, I myself was in the Sgts Mess Annex and I believe Tom must have been in the transit block.
We were no where near together on the parade as Don couldn’t make it,and the remainder, being of various shapes and height, when obeying ye olde “tallest on the right, shortest on the left”, meant that we were no where in sight when we did the “Slow Shoe Shuffle” that this year passed as a March.
Not to worry, as we would no doubt all be together on the top table,as there was so few of us, but alas this was not to be either, because like star dust we were sprinkled amongst the other well attended 59ers.
I must admit to having a few moments of panic when I checked the seating plan to discover that I was in centre table between the Corps ASM and the “Vicar”, I was convinced that at some time I must have crossed “Uncle Bill”, and he was getting his revenge on me, by nominating me to give a speech without giving me any prior warning, but thankfully the butterflies dissappeared when it became clear that our guest speaker was to be the Corps ASM.
Although the night was a great success, one has to wonder why the quintet that were playing had not been issued beforehand with miners pitlamps, as I swear that at one point they dissappeared from sight in the darkness, and must have been playing by memory,but all credit to them for soldiering on.
Reunions are always an enjoyable occasion,especially when it is your 50th, but what made it for me was at the the barbecue meeting up once again with Don’s wife Pat, who like Don I had not come across again for 47 years.
During our time at AAS, Don and myself had been, I suppose , as close to being brothers as you could expect to get, and so some six months or so after we had past out and I was languishing in Sennelager with 123 Coy Tank Transporter Workshops, I was delighted to get a visit from Don and his young girlfriend, and we spent a enjoyable day out at some old neolithic ruins somewhere on the outskirts of Paderborn, and that was the first and last time we had met. As Don and myself could have only been 19, then Pat must have been about 17, now all these years later when we ex boys look every day of our 65 years and some days feel considerably older, why is it that 47 years after first meeting her plus the 17 years that she must have been then – makes her still look only about 40 (funny how we all age differently)!!
Irrespective of what is in store in the future for our reunion venues, both Don and myself have pledged to make this an annual get together and stay in touch in between times, which I think says it all and confirms all that is good about our associations ethos.
A brilliant weekend,not to be forgotten.
Mo Hope 59B