Friday, 22 August 2014

RAF Boy Entrants 48th Entry: 50th Anniversary of Passing Out Celebrations

This 50th anniversary celebration being held in July and not, as was the 50th anniversary of the 48th Entry joining up, in January, the weather was much kinder to us. No snow!

Cosford RAF Camp entrance January 2013.

Cosford RAF Camp entrance 18th July 2014.

We decided on a leisurely journey on Wednesday 16th July, catching the 9.49am train from Huntingdon to Peterborough. Dave doesn't drive very far these days. On the way to the station my jacket went into the suitcase. No need for it. Our day was further brightened by the beautiful baskets of flowers on the station forecourt.

There was also a small garden area that promises to also brighten up the station when it matures.

Like last time we spilt our ticket at Peterborough thus saving ourselves a few pounds or more each.

The wait at Peterborough for the train to Birmingham was supposed to be softened by a hot chocolate drink but it was not the best choice on such a hot day. The train, running from Stanstead Airport to Birmingham New Street via Timbuktu, had (as is usual) only two carriages. Hot day, two carriages, countless haphazardly placed suitcases, too many people.... In addition there was a very brave lady trying to move a refreshment trolley up and down the train between stops. In the end she had to give up because people sitting and standing were squashed tight already. When asked why the train could not have more carriages she replied that some of the platforms on the route could not accommodate longer trains. I think much but say nothing.

New Street to Wellington Station was a more pleasant journey. The underground, dark and closed in platform at New Street

was in stark contrast to the light, airy and floral platforms at Wellington.

The last leg of the journey was by the number 44 bus from the bus station. The steep and uneven steps up from the train station seemed even more treacherous on 16th July than they did when covered with snow. Dave had trouble handling the cases and I tripped three times, grazing my hand on one of the occasions.

Wellngton Bus Station (taken on the morning of Thursday 17th July).
The bus came quickly and we were soon at the Telford Whitehouse Hotel which we remembered well from last time.

Checking in was quick and simple, and we were soon unpacked and relaxing with a much needed cuppa. Where last time our room had been on the ground floor at the end of a long corridor, this time we were on the first floor almost next to the stairs and the lift, and almost opposite the walkway to the refreshment area. The room was the same layout as before.

While at reception our eyes fell on the sweeties on sale, some in packets for a charity and some in a coin-in-the-slot dispenser. Dave is very fond of jelly beans and I am guilty of buying them for him. Alas none.

After freshening up we proceeded to the Bar - correctly known at Sir Stephen's Brasserie - to meet up with previous and later arrivals. Some of the Boys had arrived on the previous day or even earlier. We joined Dennis Tipping at one of the tables. Dave and he started talking and there was no stopping them. Dennis had travelled from Australia and had decided to make the most of his trip to the UK by spending time before and after the reunion travelling around.

Lunch didn't sound all that exciting but we settled for a cheese sandwich. Little did we know that it would be a feast, with plentiful cheese and onion chutney (if you like that sort of thing) and salad.

Forgetting to pack teabags and milk (there are never enough in any hotel room) I nipped to the local shop. No jelly beans there either. On the way out of the hotel I bumped into Brian and Fay Todd. In their later years Dave and Brian had worked together for a while, and we had lived only a short distance apart. Brian and Fay had travelled in their campervan from Spain to attend.

Dave is not really a great talker but attending this reunion, and the previous one, transformed him into a happy chatterer. Thinking that he - and other Boys - might want to talk about things they would prefer their - or somebody else's - wife not to hear, on more than one occasion I made a simple exit. The heat made a good excuse to "go and freshen up". 

I decided not to intrude on the Boys when I got back from the shop, leaving them to talk together about times gone by and catching up on the last 50+ years.

The evening meal was in Sir Stephen's Brasserie, and very good it was too.

And a peek out the window proved that the football pitch was still there.

July 2014

January 2013
Dinner was followed by more chatter, reminisces and catching up.

Derek, Gordon and Des.

Des Fay Todd, Brian Todd, Pat Lynch, Dave.

But the Brasserie seemed to have some sort of strange influence over some of the menfolk. On more than one occasion a Boy was seen coming out of the (adequately labelled) Ladies convenience. I show no faces and name no names.

Ladies on the left, Gents on the right.

Thursday 17th July was the day of the Reunion Dinner. After a superb breakfast, including a continental-style cereal and fresh fruit (which we have at home) and a traditional hot selection (which we don't), everybody "did their own thing". The main talk was about a  ride on the Severn Valley Railway between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster or a visit to Ironbridge. In addition, some went to the Royal Air Force Museum at RAF Cosford and some to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. We went on a nostalgia trip to Shrewsbury. We had been there in May 2008 to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary, on a coach holiday with Shearings, staying at the Prince Rupert Hotel. Shrewsbury is only a short journey by train from Wellington.

Everyone will have their own memories of what they did on this day but I can only share with you our experiences in Shrewsbury. However, what might interest you here is our foray into McDonald's at 11 Pride Hill to escape the heat and to quench our thirst with a cold shake. I followed the sign for "100 seats downstairs" to enter a scene never before experienced in a McDonald's. Part of the town wall forms part of the external wall on the lower ground floor and the restaurant is furnished sympathetically. If you are ever in Shrewsbury it is worthwhile popping in just to have a look. More pictures in the Shrewsbury blog.

McDonald's Shrewsbury, Children's Area.
McDonald's Shrewsbury, lower ground floor.
On arriving back at the hotel it was another delicious cheese sandwich before I left Dave in the bar to natter while I made my excuses to rest up in preparation for the evening dinner.

The function room, the same one as last time, didn't disappoint, with four large well laid circular tables, with ten or twelve people to a table.

The battery operated white lights in a large clear glass vase, one on each table, were very pretty and impressive but did obscure seeing the people sitting opposite. Some sensible diners moved the vases. There were to be 42 at the dinner but 44 actually attended, the miscount being easily accounted for.

Starting with the person on my left and moving clockwise, on our table were Peter and Pat Lynch, Brian and Fay Todd, Anne and John Chenery, Ray Denning-Duke, Roger Garner, Dave and me, people we knew and whose company we enjoyed.

The food was good but, being vegetarian, there was a restricted choice and, to be honest, I would have much more enjoyed a repeat of the meal I had eaten the previous evening.

Richard Osler gave a speech thanking all who had come, and proposed the toast to Absent Friends.

The effort to attend made by some of the Boys was commendable. They had travelled from, in alphabetical order, Australia, Canada, Mauritius, Norway Papua New Guinea, Spain, Thailand, "and Swindon". I was well chuffed to hear Dave get a mention for helping to locate and contact some of the Boys. Ruth Quigley, wife of Frank, beautifully sang Time to Say Goodbye with great emotion. My eyes were welling up so I cannot imagine how the Boys must have been feeling. Apologies for there not being a picture of Ruth in action.

Then the group photographs. The Boys to pose, the ladies to work the cameras. For men who have gone through the discipline of RAF training, trying to organise themselves was the final word in chaos. Just as all were in what was thought to be position, as the shutters clicked up they got and moved around. Fortunately there was some finality to this and pictures were taken.

As for a group photograph of the ladies, we were poised and seemed to be so forever until the job was done.

Dave Hornsby, Brian Todd, Pauline Hornsby (self), Pat Lynch, Ruth Quigley, Fay Todd, Peter Lynch. 

Pauline Hornsby (self), Pat Lynch, Fay Todd, Ruth Quigley. 

Then, of course, more nattering before bedtime.

Breakfast was as the day before but for some reason I wasn't feeling so good. Possibly the heat and the excitement (and the thought of enduring the journey home). After checking out of the hotel, Dennis Tipping kindly gave us and our luggage a lift to RAF Cosford to visit the Royal Air Force Museum. He saved us struggling with the cases on the bus then on the train, and then having the long walk from the station to the museum dragging our luggage. Thank you Dennis.

To be honest I am not that interested in aircraft and much of the museum did not inspire. Perhaps if I had felt better... However, sitting on a seat under the belly of the Vulcan aircraft was awe inspiring. Having written a children's publication on the subject, I was more interested in the Home Front display. The tablecloth was hand embroidered.

I was also interested in the 44th Entry Boy Entrants Display which helped me to gain some more understanding of Dave's experiences. I wasn't an RAF wife, having met Dave after he left the RAF.

The caption on the picture reads: Original painting by Neil Wooding (16th/17th Entry) presented by the RAFBEA to the Officer Commanding Royal Air Force Cosford at the 1997 Reunion Dinner on Saturday 13th September 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary year of post war Boy Entrant training. 

In the afternoon we were given a guided tour of RAF Cosford, taken around the camp by coach. I found the introductory talk about RAF Cosford interesting and worthwhile. We were then shown some of the training rooms. Dave was into the hardware while I chatted with some of the ladies.

Self, Anne Chenery, Ruth Quigley.

Dave was the one of we two taking photographs of the aircraft and technical artefacts. I am sure every Boy took photographs of his favourites so here are only a few of Dave's shots.

Unlike last time, we were given the opportunity to purchase afternoon tea and what looked like home made cakes in the dining hall. This was welcome in advance of the journey home.

The coach took us to the exit via the Fulton Block with the mandatory pictures, assuming that the Boys would keep still long enough for decent pictures to be taken!

July 2014
January 2013
We said our goodbyes and the Boys promised to keep in touch and to meet up again in the future. Another thank you to Dennis for taking us to the station with our luggage. 

Cosford Station

Then home, with a mind full of memories and my knowing more about my beloved husband in the years before I met him.

You might also like to read Mike Sinnott's blog on the reunion. 

Also, have a look at Derek Clinick's Plane Art website for stunning pencil drawings of aircraft.

For those of you asking or wondering about the yellow fluff I was knitting, it was a scarf made with donated yarn for a Samaritan's Purse Shoebox. The scarf is now completed along with several others.

A picture added for my pleasure. Dave on the train from Birmingham to Wellington. 

Just for fun, me and my shadow at Wellington Bus Station on the morning of Thursday 17th July on the way to Shrewsbury.

Copyright © Pauline Hornsby August 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting my blog today. Your comments are welcome. If you enjoy knitting please visit and Like my Facebook Page