We had another great reunion, and the weather was once again kind to us, if a little warm. Enjoy!
Full 2013 Reunion report shown below
2013 Reunion report
Jonny? Yes Dad; “Would you have a look at my broken widget please?” After I (usually) fixed it he would say; ”Ah, your Arborfield apprenticeship” He never said Army apprenticeship, always Arborfield apprenticeship. I think our formative years there instilled in us an attitude to ‘have a go’ and usually succeed.
When some of us met on Friday it was the first time since boy school since we had seen each other, laughter lines and expanding waists were the only differences we saw.
Unfortunately we could only muster five from 63B for Friday and Saturday evening; two more were to join us for the main day on Saturday.
Others wanted to attend but were looking after family members, speedy recovery to them. All of us from 63B were from C company and five were in the same room in Jeepland! We came from near and far, Joe from Edmonton, Alberta, and Joe from Nottingham. There were also two members from 63C.
After picking up our badges and finding the all important bar the memories came flooding back, I’m sure this was the same for every table. There was a nice choice of curries and it was a reminder of happy times in past Sergeants messes.
Just as we were about to get our dinner someone was thieving our last popadom; yes Taff 66C, you know who you are. Dave Gardner, our eagle eyed ex policeman witnessed the offence and apprehended the culprit!
If only we had known how tiring all of Saturday was going to be we would not have been last to leave.
We all managed to get on the coaches after breakfast to go to the National Arboretum, it was my first visit there.
We met the other two before we formed up for parade. After a one minute silence we were brought to some semblance of order by S/Sgt Michael Bysh and Sgt Kevin Lancaster. The pipe band struck up and lead us to the saluting dias. I know we are all a bit long in the tooth, but the pace was a bit slow, the D/S were shouting out the time but not quite in sync with the bass drum. Lots of changing step and sniggering; hopefully we arrived at the dias before anyone noticed.
The parade was handed over to the chairman Colonel ‘ This is what you’ll get if you do it again’
Brian Hutchins, I was surprised at the power of his voice, a legacy of being boy RSM. We were inspected by Brigadier Nigel Williams, at the beginning of his address to us he said that he also was an ex apprentice of 72C, this brought on cries of ‘Boo – Jeep’ I hope it was taken in the spirit it was given.
After the parade we all went to the Apprentice memorial, which was very impressive. The padre in charge was Gary Kelly, an ex apprentice from Carlisle, although we didn’t hold that against him. The sound system was malfunctioning and someone called for a competent ECE (Ekky), several were there but none were forthcoming.
The padre said that he didn’t want to sing a solo, so most joined in. There appeared to be two groups, one about a second behind the other so that was cause for a few more giggles. Then came the sad bit, Roger Traves read out the names of fifty two members no longer with us.
The act of remembrance, last post and then silence enabled us all to think of those departed.
After all that marching and singing we had worked up an appetite, we made our way to the tent for a well laid out lunch. At the end mini cake stands were put on each table, Dave was on guard in case our popadom pincher was going to strike again.
After lunch Joe McCormack and I used the colour of the tree bark and other natural features to navigate our way to the Army Commando Memorial; two birds with one stone!
We went to the main memorial on top of the mound and all found it quite moving.
We then said our goodbyes to those not attending the evening dinner and had a well earned rest on the Coach.
Warmers into the bank were consumed before dinner. It was a pleasure to sit at the table with our Chairman, Colonel Brian, S/Sgt Michael Bysh and his wife Jo. We were treated to an excellent dinner and were entertained by a quartet and Alex Burt on his pipes (not at the same time of course!). Alex then piped in the port and we all raised our glasses to the Queen and then to the hotel staff for their excellent service. The chairman then gave a speech and was followed by Dave Welch, some of his ‘Mummy Mummy’ jokes fell on deaf ears, maybe it was an early sixties thing. He gave a valiant effort especially as no one else Volunteered.
We were also entertained by the trial of three members for defacing WD property. The accused were Tony Strong 53A, Ted Standford 60C and Larry Jarvis 56B, the accuser was Alec Powell 64C.
The accused had allegedly scribed their names on bricks in a wall behind Jeepland, the bricks had recently been discovered so the culprits were charged for defacing WD property. They were each fined approx. £800 or buy drinks for their tables for the rest of the Evening.
The weekend is a celebration of everyone’s three years of hard graft, not just those fifty years on. There were also three members from 1953 and two from 1943, unfortunately I did not get to speak to the 53’ers, but I did have chat with Bob and George. George Wooley was fourteen and a half when he joined and was a fitter general in the Royal Engineers. Bob & George
Bob Jones was a VM Royal Engineers and ended up as a source controller. Their army numbers only have seven digits and they were a bit miffed because their numbers came from a block allocated to the Royal Signals. After a weekly room inspection the best room got the radio! Different times.
They even had redundancies in those days too, there were three options to stay in the Army. Transfer to either the Royal Army Pay Corps, Royal Army Service Corps or Military Prison Staff Corps, in all cases dropping a rank.
Our intake of 63B engendered many special friendships and an overall sense of comradeship that has thus far endured for over fifty years – and that’s longer than most marriages last. And I feel sure that is the same for all Divisions.
I looked at the photos of the 2011 reunion, 1961 intake marching on the square in front of Jeepland,and then out of the School gates. It would be more poignant to us all if we could do that every year. Our Irish contingent met at the gates this year, I have a photo but is too distressing to add here! There was a notice that the site is to be developed with 2000 houses.
I shall remember it as I first saw it, I dropped my bag on the ground and looked up at the School sign; the guard outside the guard room said “Come on in lad, the sky is the same here as is it at home”.
Jon Rencher 63B