AOBA 53rd Reunion, Hinckley by Frank Westwood 66A
We finally joined the rest of the AOBA at The Jurys Inn Hinckley Island Hotel for the weekend after our reunion tour. Gathering on the terrace for a beer or three until we could check in at 3:00 pm we had forty four full time 66ers and four 66ers who could only attend part time. Those of us who were lucky enough to be able to check in straight away joined our comrades at the bar and greeted passer-by’s from other intakes with time-honoured greetings. Modesty prevents me from listing them here.
Friday Meet & Greet
After checking in it was back to the bar to wait for the famous curry dinner. The 66ers were easy to spot in their shirts. The logo was specially designed for the occasion and is based on the school stable belt as the 66ers were the last intakes to wear it. Rebadging to REME took place in October of 1966.
We also had our own baseball caps with the logo made which quickly became prized possessions. I have it on good authority that TeeCee’s wife June now sports one when driving. Well done June.
But all good things must come to an end, last orders was called quickly followed by time and so off to bed. A hearty English breakfast the next day and off to the National Arboretum for our parade and Drum Head Service.
The parade was a resounding success and ably reviewed by Maj.(Retd.) Keith Bartlett 66C C Coy.
Our Honarary Chairman leading the parade and sporting the new style of headgear instead of the traditional bowler.
Drum Head Service
Our very own Rev. Bev John 66A D Coy conducted the Drumhead Service and presented the AOBA with a newly dedicated Holy Bible to be used at all future services. I had the honour to be the first to read the scripture from it, being taken from Philippians Chapter 1, Verses 3 to 11.
Rev Bev being presented with a memento of the occasion by Keith Bartlett together with his College Colours, just 50 years late.
Haversack lunches were issued and made a welcome change to the full on lunch. However, due to the weather it wasn’t possible to roam the NMA sites that this ‘extra’ time gave but all seem to tuck into the haversack with plenty of remarks as to how much the content within had changed in the past 50 years! It was then off back to Hinckley for the AGM.
Details from this will be published elsewhere so I won’t post it here. I’d rather move onto the highlight of the weekend – the Regimental Dinner.
Saturday Evening Dinner
The AOBA Members and Guests gathered in the Rotunda and the 66ers were piped into dinner by the resurrected Army Apprentices Pipes And Drums. What a feeling going in to dinner, being blinded by the flashes and deafened by the clapping. Please forward your photos, we’d love to see our entrance from your viewpoint. All ladies received a small gift from the 66ers as a token of our appreciation for letting your Old Boy be with us on our special night.
What a fantastic weekend. Thanks especially to the ‘Old Boys’ Pipes and Drums. Your planned and impromptu performances really made the weekend. Stories of practice sessions over Skype were amazing and showed that none of the ‘practice, practice and practice again, until we get it right’ attitude still lives on within the ‘Old Boys’.
|Pipe Major||Alex Burt 62A|
|Pipers||Major Robin Bartholomew 58A Derek Camp 58B Trevor Flett 73C Nick Cane 76C Neil Turrell 62A|
|Snare Drum||Tony Church 55A|
|Bass Drum||Alastair White 71A|
Alex Burt piped the port in and toasts were given to The Queen, Prince Phillip and Absent Friends. Speeches were made. The Chairman, Mike Tizard thanked Pam and her staff of the Jurys Inn, Hinckley who saw to it that we wanted for nothing.
John ‘Herbie’ Coles recited his poem in praise of the Pipes and Drums, now a tradition I believe. Nice one Herbie.
Pipes and Drums
A fine paradiddle, a gracenote, short, are skills honed long ago,
Pipeband sounds that braced the friend, and demoralised the foe.
In respectful hush, at remembrancetide, we hear that stirring sound,
Chests full of pride and also tears, as standards sweep the ground.
And so it was, at Arborfield, our old boys learned to play,
Encouraged some, in Highland tongue, by the Pipeys of their day.
The rest of us, with no such skills, put footfall to the ground,
The music helped our marching too, most came to love that sound.
So here we join, friendships renewed, the comradeship that ties,
That haunting beat, that stirring skirl, and again the hackles rise.
So let us raise, a glass in praise, of all our pipes and drums tonight,
And thank you lads, you made us proud, Slanche-vaar, too right!
One of the highlights was Chris Peerless’s speech about his operations and the adversities he’s had to overcome in the last few years. A considerable achievement seeing as he came from Australia. Owen Kavanagh made presentations to Keith Bartlett, the Reviewing Officer, Mike Tizard for the AOBA committee as thanks for their work and lastly to quote Owen ‘To Chris, or what’s left of him’ for his ‘never give in attitude’. Mike Tizard presented David Schofield, the retiring Honorary Secretary, with a silver salver as thanks for his work and commitment. Thanks also have to be made to RSM Chris Kipling and SSgt Nick Mannings who reminded us how to march again, but far too gently. A special mention also has to be made of Kelly Smith, the first female to complete an Arborfield Apprenticeship and come to a reunion. Well done young lady, you’re an Old Boy now. A resounding rendition of The Reds was sung and then down to the serious business of enjoying ourselves.
Finally, a bleary eyed breakfast, our last farewells and promises to see you all again next year, God willing. Rev Bev, please put a good word in for us.
The list of people to thank for helping make it a success would read like the nominal roll for the reunion. A big thank you to the AOBA team members for arranging the AOBA Reunion and helping to celebrate the 66ers 50th. Without your hard work behind the scenes none of this would have been possible.
Last but not least a big thank you to all 66ers who turned up and helped make this 66ers 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour a resounding success and fittingly rounding off their celebrations in style with all the other ex-apprentices and guest at the AOBA 53rd Annual Reunion…thank you.
We all look forward to celebrating next year with the 67ers