AOBA Reunion 2010 by Ted Stanford 60C
As it falls on a member from the anniversary year to provide the write up for the OBAN I was “volunteered” by the guy who used to be my best mate, Jim McIntyre, although to be fair I was asked, I was just a bit slow in taking one pace to the rear. The following is my memories of the weekend.
Planning for the 60ers 50th anniversary reunion started approx 2 years ago when the three coordinators for 60A, 60B and 60C namely Mike Dorward, Terry Harris and Jim McIntyre respectively started their search for members of their own Divs. Due to their hard work leading up to the reunion seventy 60ers attended the reunion, twenty four from 60A, six from 60B and forty from 60C. So knowing that so many 60ers were attending this year I was really looking forward to the weekend.
On arrival at Arborfield at about 1845 hrs on the Friday I found quite a lengthy queue booking in, but noticed there was no “jipping” so it wasn’t too bad and I immediately bumped into a couple of guys from 60A that I hadn’t met since Boys School, Alan (Shag) Twyning and David (Dai) Lloyd accompanied by John (Jock) Reilly and Paddy Foster, and would you believe it both Alan and Dai still had a photo of all three of us together plus Nobby Clarkson taken in C Coy lines. As I didn’t need accommodation I got checked in pretty quickly once I’d reached the front of the queue, got my name badge and then was immediately relieved of a fiver by Dave (Tich) Schofield selling 2011 AOBA calenders, which I believe raised £173 for the AANM fund.
On to Bailleul Sergeants Mess which I remember as SEE Sgt’s Mess and it brought back memories of myself and wife staggering back up Biggs Lane in the early hours of a Sunday morning to our quarter in Venning Road. Sorry I digress. On entering the Mess it was apparent that a lot of members had already arrived and were taking advantage of the cheap bar prices. Much handshaking ensued as old friends met up again, some after forty seven years since they last met. It’s funny how some of the guys you wouldn’t recognise if you bumped into them in the street but others don’t seem to have changed at all. Some are fatter/thinner, hair is longer/shorter but always greyer and some of us have to walk with a stick. The thing about AOBA reunions is that it’s not only meeting people from your own div but bumping into other guys that you served with at some point since you left Arborfield, you might not have known them at Boy’s School but became good friends later, so a lot of conversations started with “I remember you from…….”. Soon the party was in full swing and as the weather was kind we were able to use the area outside the rear of the building.
Soon it was announced that supper was served and laid out before us was a choice of superb curries with all the trimmings and also lasagne for those who didn’t fancy curry, although I’ve yet to meet a squaddie who doesn’t eat curry, the hotter the better. The bar closed dead on midnight when the shutters came down, reminded me of some Naafi bars I’ve frequented over the years, and people started to drift away to their beds or whatever with promises to see each other in the morning. Oh before I forget during the evening a raffle was held in support of the AANM and a grand sum of £615 was raised.
When I got up on Saturday morning it was pouring down with rain but by the time everyone had assembled at the Sgt’s mess it had dried up and although it threatened to rain on occasion it stayed dry for the rest of the day. As I didn’t stay on camp I can’t comment on the breakfast but I’m assured it was up to the usual standard and quantity. On entering the mess tea and coffee was available and Tony Church, TeeCee to his friends, had set up a stall selling AAS mugs and dvds of last years reunion parade in aid of the AANM. If anyone wants one of these superb mugs they can contact Tony via the AOBA Forum and I’m sure he’ll be happy to oblige.
Soon it was time to go across to our old camp square for the parade, some people walked, others by car, and some used the minibuses that were laid on all weekend to ferry us about if we needed it, all the drivers having given up their weekend for us. Many thanks to them.
Everyone assembled at the rear of “Jeepland” or should it be the front because that’s where the door is, there we were met by WO1 (RSM) Hall and WO2 (CSM) Davidson both as smart as I always remember RSMs and CSMs to be. After a glass of port each all those taking part in the parade were asked “politely” to form two squads, with the 60ers in one squad and everyone else in the other.
Fifty two 60ers with an estimated sixty eight others meant a total of 120 on parade. Both squads were inspected before they marched on the square and although I could hear some guys being checked for their turnout nobody was marched off in double time to the guardroom.
By this time the Rochester Pipe Band had formed up and were ready to march onto the square. The City of Rochester Pipe Band is led by Alex (Jock) Burt ex C Coy 62A and I’m sure apprentices from the early 60’s will remember him.
Following the pipe band the march on was led by Trevor Guest 60A who every year handles the AOBA Standard with true professionalism and waiting on the square was Col (Retd) Brian Hutchins immaculate as ever as one would expect of the ex A/T/RSM of 61B that he was. Brian brought the parade to the halt and after the advance were stood at ease to await the arrival of the inspecting officer.
Because it was the 60ers year the inspecting officer was one of our own, Lt Col (Retd) Richard Shorthose 60C B Coy. Dick as we knew him then passed out in 1963 as a fellow ECE but soon his real potential was recognised with a commission. The parade was brought to attention and Richard was invited to inspect the troops, and afterwards told them how emotional he’d found that.
The parade then marched past in quick time, left the square and we then moved on to the more sombre part of the weekend, The Drum Head Service.
Before the service commenced a drink of orange squash was available which was a most welcome addition to the agenda especially for those that had been on parade as it had got quite warm by then.
The service this year was conducted by Revd Stephen Thatcher and during which the names of ex apprentices that had sadly died since the last reunion were read out, this included one 60er, Stan Blachford 60C C Coy another fellow ECE. Stan had been fighting cancer for sometime but had managed to attend a reunion back in 2004.
Then it was back to the Sgt’s Mess for a welcome drink, some queued at the bar while others made a dash for a seat outside on the lawn. This year saw many more ladies attending with their husbands (I’m assuming they were husbands) some with their grand children and it made for a more family atmosphere which of course what it’s all about.
Nine ladies from 60C were there, some had met before but the ones that hadn’t soon made friends as army wives do. We could see that the BBQ lunch was being prepared on tables outside and it looked very nice.
We weren’t disappointed as when told “Lunch is served” we were met with “mountains” of delicious food, and while we were eating we were entertained by the pipe band. During the afternoon 60C raised £826 towards the AANM fund, mainly to buy tablets for the members of our div that have sadly passed away, included in this amount was £150 raised by Bill Coxon by selling handmade pens that he makes for a hobby.
We managed to get a group photo with most of 60C present. Paul Bosanko had painstakingly identified everybody on 60Cs’ Junior Coy and 9 Div photos then had the names super imposed on them before having the photos enlarged to a huge 12ft by 3 ft approx, these were then held up by our good ladies on the group photo. Thanks Paul.
After lunch people started to drift away, the REME Museum, shop and cafe were open for those who wanted to get souvenirs or just have a cup of coffee, some took advantage of the various exhibitions available. I sat having a cup of coffee while my good lady went into the shop dying to spend some money. It was remarked that some guys had travelled from all over the world to attend this year, John Reilly and Bas Hill from Australia, Dell LeGall from Spain, Richard Shorthose and Steve Leadley from France, Dave McLean from Holland, Owen Kavanagh from the USA and Chalky White from Dubai. Tich Schofield has to drive for seven hours just to reach the cross channel ferry. There must be others and of course there are those that travel from all over the UK.
I didn’t attend the AGM so can’t comment, did wonder if anyone brought up the subject of accommodation shortage. I know of some that had intended to come this year but changed their minds when told that there was no bed for them. Others stayed in local hotels etc. Twenty members of 60C stayed in the Madjeski hotel in Reading and hired a minibus for the journeys to and fro. Others remarked that they would be prepared to share rooms using camp beds or to sleep under canvas even.
At 7pm members who were attending the 48th Reunion Dinner started to gather at the regimental restaurant where the bar was open for a pre dinner drink, I bumped into two guys from 61C that I hadn’t met for some years, Alan Woolley and Colin King and was chatting to them when we received the call to dinner just before 8pm.
Because of the large number of 60ers attending for their 50th anniversary the top table seating plan was different to previous years. Both sides of the table were occupied plus the top few places on the end legs so unfortunately some of the 60ers didn’t get to sit on the top table proper. 222 members sat down to a superb meal, the wine supply was endless, the port was passed and we raised our glasses to toast The Queen, and Absent Friends. Music during the meal was played by the Stephen Nye Quintet. The guest speaker was Keith (Percy) Thrower, 60C D Coy. Percy delivered his speech really well despite a failing PA system resulting in uncalled for barracking from the rear because they couldn’t hear. Why in the twenty tens at an establishment that excels in electronics, can’t we provide a system that works? Percy also made a presentation to Jim McIntyre in thanks from the 60C members for all Jim’s hard work in tracking down so many people, 71 in all.
Then it was back to the Sgts mess for a few more drinks where the bar was open to 0200. People started to drift away and old friends said farewell with promises to meet again soon, more goodbyes would be said the next morning between the guys who used the accommodation on Saturday night. Another super reunion weekend.
Thanks to the AOBA Committee, they come up with the goods year after year.
Thanks to the catering staff for all the delicious food.
Thanks to the bar staff.
Thanks to the minibus drivers.
Thanks to my driver, Barry Williams 59B.
Thanks to everyone that attended this years reunion for making it special for us the 60ers.
Some stats, courtesy of Bill Cleasby:-
265 members attended.
24 from 60A
6 from 60B
40 from 60C
222 sat down for dinner
There were five 50ers celebrating their 60th.