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

Visits to Shrewsbury

We have been to Shrewsbury three or four times. I have a vague recollection of us driving along a road, green land like a park on our left and urban on our right. My memory has always thought this to have been in Shrewsbury. Of course I could be utterly mistaken - you know the memory can play tricks - and we were driving in another place and I have transposed Shrewsbury upon it. Even if I'm not and I haven't, I have no idea where we would have been going on that journey or even when.

Either on that journey or during what I shall now call our first visit to Shrewsbury I do remember seeing at ground floor level an old white building with one or two steps leading to the door. On each side of the door were hanging baskets and on the pavement two half barrels or similar containers overflowing with flowers which somebody was watering. This image has for some reason haunted me, and made me want to return and explore the town more. On our next two visits, as well as online, I have tried to locate this building but without success. But if where I saw this image wasn't Shrewsbury then I wouldn't find it, would I?

Our definite first visit  to Shrewsbury was in 1995 or thereabouts. We had booked a few days bed and breakfast at Tankerville Lodge, on the edge of Stiperstones. The property was unique, having a disused lead mine either in or accessible from the garden.

For information about the mine see 

Tankerville Lodge is still there but no longer seems to be a B&B.

We took Billy, our boisterous young Border Collie. Because of his behaviour he had to sleep in the car, obviously with frequent checks on his welfare. We made up for it by taking him for long walks on Stiperstones and making sure he was out of the car as much as possible.

At this point in our lives we weren't into recording our memories to share with other people so there are but few pictures and those that are shown are scanned prints so the quality is not so good.

On one of the days we visited Shrewsbury. We wanted to see Shrewsbury Abbey so walked through the town to the English Bridge to find the river in (what seemed to us) flood. We also seem to remember a multistory car park on the town side of the bridge, which we thought rather out of keeping with the ancient ambience. We crossed the bridge to the Abbey Foregate then had to take it in turns to go inside the Abbey, one of us staying outside with Billy while the other went in. Opposite was the Shrewsbury Quest, a recreated twelfth century monastery inspired by the Cadfael novels of Ellis Peters, which opened in 1994, the same year as the Cadfael television series started. Having Billy with us we didn't go in but vowed to do so on our next visit.

When we were travelling Billy used to love sitting on the parcel shelf.

This picture of him taken during our holiday was later translated into a hand knitted piece. (Link to follow.)

We had our main meals in the Tankerville Arms in Longden, conveniently on our evening route back to Tankerville Lodge. Generous portions, including freshly picked local wild berries. There was a shop attached, small but stocked everything.

Leaving for home Dave decided to drive along the Long Mynd to Church Stretton. We had a three wheel Reliant Rialto. The road was narrow, with a very long vertical drop on my side but the side of the mountain on his. Skilled driving did nothing for me. I was scared stupid. Then the car skidded on some gravel. Enough was enough! Screaming for Dave to stop I got out of the car and somehow managed to get myself pinned with my back against the solid mountain wall. Then it was small side steps, clinging to the solid ground beneath and behind me until I reached the town. I don't think I was very popular with the other drivers but I had never been so frightened in my life, before or since!

Our second visit to Shrewsbury was on a coach holiday with Shearings, 12th to 16th May 2008 to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. We stayed at the Prince Rupert Hotel, in room 113. Billy had died in 2005.

The hotel is in Butcher's Row ...

... almost opposite Grope Lane.

We had one of the modern rooms but this didn't stop us exploring the older parts of the building.

On one occasion we went into the basement and found the exercise equipment and the like. We also found a courtyard and let ourselves out to have a look. The door closed behind us and we couldn't get back in. After an initial panic a quick search found the door leading from the courtyard into the street through which we were able to escape and walk back to the front entrance.

There was no entertainment provided at the hotel but we didn't mind. Having quality food cooked to order and good company was enough. We were also able to spend some of the evening before nightfall exploring the town.

On the first night dinner was in the prestigious Chambers Bar and Bistro although it might have been called Chambers-something-else then.

I dressed for dinner but found other people arriving in jeans, T-shirts and the like so didn't bother too much for the rest of the stay.

Our meals on the other evenings were in the Royalist Restaurant, which again might have had another name in 2008.

We were glad to be able to spend a day in the town and had planned to visit the Shrewsbury Quest. However, this had closed in 2001 and the premises were - and still are - occupied by the Shropshire Wildlife Trust. We visited the Trust after spending some time at the Abbey.

Our visit to St Mary's Church could have been a disaster when a piece of masonry fell as if from nowhere and just missed Dave's head. We took the offending object to the woman who seemed to be 'on duty' and when we eventually managed to grasp her attention her attitude was less than unconcerned.

This window in St Mary's Church was made in the 16th century and features a rare collection of continental glass. The window was smashed on 16th May 2014, six years almost to the day after our visit, and will cost £15,000 to repair.

As well as seeing the sights, it was during this visit that we walked along the Town Walls. Beautiful views but the drop on the other side didn't look so pleasing.

The Old Market Hall.

Statue of Robert Clive (Clive of India) in The Square. 

Castle Street looking towards the railway station. 
With Dave constantly fluctuating in weight from slim and sexy to a beached whale, he has a selection of wedding rings so that he always has one that fits. As it was our wedding anniversary I bought him a multicoloured ring which is hard to describe: irridescent colours, like oil on a puddle. He offered to buy me a matching one and, like an idiot, I refused.

There were excursions on this holiday, to Ironbridge with all its attractions and a train journey. (Link to separate blog to follow.)

Our third visit to Shrewsbury was on Thursday 17th July 2014 when we were staying at Wellington for the 50th anniversary of the RAF Boy Entrants 48th Entry Passing Out celebrations. Shrewsbury is only a short journey from Wellington on the train.

Shrewsbury Castle is next to the train station. We had not visited the Castle before and were disappointed to find it closed on Thursdays. The Shropshire Regimental Museum is housed there.

However, we admired the superbly well kept gardens ... 

... and managed the uphill walk and climb to Laura's Tower with its magnificent views of the town and countryside.
Shrewsbury Castle from Laura's Tower.

Shrewsbury Railway Station from Laura's Tower.

Railway on the left and Shrewsbury Abbey on the right.
Close by is the Library, with the statue of Charles Darwin outside the front.

The day was hot and by now we were thirsty so went into McDonald's at 11 Pride Hill to escape the heat and to quench our thirst with a cold shake. The ground floor was as one would expect but reserved for disabled and elderly people and people with prams and buggies. I followed the sign for "100 seats downstairs" to enter a breathtaking scene never before experienced in a McDonald's. Part of the town wall, built between 1220 and 1252, forms part of the external wall on the lower ground floor. The restaurant is furnished sympathetically, and there is a mirrored pillar crammed with information about the building. Even if you don't like McDonald's, if you are ever in Shrewsbury it is worthwhile popping in and buying a drink just to have a look.

Children's area, mezzanine floor.
View from the window in children's area on lower ground floor.

Lighting on loweer ground floor.

Window on lower ground floor

Window on lower ground floor.
Our next purpose was to scour the Pride Hill, Darwin and Riverside shopping centres looking for a ring identical to the one I had bought for Dave for him to buy for me. We couldn't remember in which shopping centre we had bought his ring and after two or three circuits of all three we had to admit defeat.

We took a nostalgic walk around the St Mary's Church, St Alkmund's Church and the Prince Rupert Hotel area before wending our way back to the railway station.

St Mary's Church.
St Alkmund's Church.
St Alkmund's Church.
St Alkmund's Church/Prince Rupert Hotel area.

Shrewsbury town interactive map

Copyright © Pauline Hornsby 2014