Army Apprentice School Arborfield

 

Arborfield Old Boys Association Reunion 2010

 

Author John Swarbrick 62A

Army Apprentices School – Arborfield

 

Intakes 1962      URL:     http://www.arborfieldoldboys.co.uk/

 

Reunion 2010

 

Hello all.

 

Another AOBA reunion is over, and, (as if there could be any other result), a fantastic weekend was had by all! No doubt a report will be forthcoming on the AOBA website, but that will be written by someone from the 1960’s intakes, whose 50th anniversary it was this year.

 

I shall be sending this en masse to all from our three intakes for whom I have an email address. During the last year some who had previously been ‘on our lists’ have withdrawn or email addresses have become defunct. To bring you all up to date with known contacts, I shall also attach the current contact list for your intake only. If you wish for the other lists, then please let me know. Again, should you wish not to be associated with our efforts, let me know and your wishes will be respected.

 

This year took on a somewhat ‘village fete’ atmosphere with fundraising activities in abundance. Our webmaster ‘Tich’ Schofield (65A) was selling the 2011 calendar during the booking in process, Tony Church (55A) was selling a DVD of last year’s reunion (very good by the way), plus a mug printed with AAS badges and some of his excellent verse. Gordon Bonner (49B) and helpers were selling raffle tickets, and others were raising funds, all for the Apprentice Memorial fund. I’ll not go into details here, but if you want to know more follow the link below. (Ctrl + click).

 

URL: http://armyapprenticememorial.org.uk/

 

After last year, we thought that there may have been more in attendance in 2010. Alas not. Ian Tilson (62A ‘B’ Coy), Alex Burt (62A ‘C’ Coy), Mike Cheeseman (62C ‘C’ Coy) and myself (62A ‘A’ Coy) were there once again, but we were joined by two newcomers, Carl Powell (62C ‘B’ Coy) and Ken Blowman. Now, Ken is actually a 61er, but was relegated to 62A ‘A’ Coy due to illness very early in his apprenticeship, and by his own admission feels more at home with the 62ers. Nevertheless Ken, according to the rules, you will be celebrating your 50th a year before the rest of us!

 

As last year, Ian and myself met at the ‘Brams’ on Friday afternoon where we also met Ken. Alex of course arrived on Saturday morning with pipe band in tow, and we met up with Mike and Carl later on. Booking in this year took for ever. The reception process was very slow, but after getting all that sorted out and finding a bed space, it was over to the Sgts’ Mess for an evening of meeting old acquaintances, telling a few stories, enjoying an excellent curry buffet, which of course, was washed down with a few drinks, all at ridiculously cheap prices!

Trevor Guest & Brian Hutchins         The Parade Starts to Assemble                     On Parade

 

Saturday dawned wet and miserable, but after a hearty breakfast the skies began to clear, and by the time everyone had assembled for the parade behind the old ‘J’ Company block, blue skies were beginning to appear. A glass of port was offered to everyone prior to forming up; just to steady the nerves you understand! Alas this year I didn’t manage to sneak a second glass, it must be the start of the impending defence cuts! Yet again, in excess of 140 old boys were on parade, over 40 of who were 1960ers, the largest anniversary representation to date, so much so that they formed their own squad. Alex and his pipe band led the way as we marched on, watched by a gathering of those excused duties, wives, friends and RSM (Retd) D McMahon GG (he took over from RSM Simpson; our last RSM). Mr McMahon had briefly attended last year, but he must have enjoyed it so much, and decided that we weren’t such a bad lot after all, as he came for the whole weekend this year.

 

The reviewing officer was Lt Col (Retd) Richard Shorthose, who was himself a 1960 apprentice. Everyone present thought that this was a nice touch; to have one of your own celebrate his anniversary by being given the honour of taking the salute. As an ex-boy he knew only too well about inspections, so it was with much relief that it did not take too long, nowhere near as long as last year. So, we were quickly executing a ‘right turn’, ‘by the left quick march’ followed by two ‘left wheels’ to march past the saluting dais to the applause of the gathered crowd, and all to the stirring music from the band.

 

         The Pipe Band              Drumhead Service – Note The Old Gates       Absent Friends

 

March past and salute taken, it was once again to the Garden of Remembrance for the drumhead service, which this year was conducted by the Revd S B Thatcher. It was saddening to stand and listen to the ever lengthening list of names of those who have since last year held their final passing out parade.

The service over, it was back to the Sgts’ Mess for the BBQ, after which, and as usual, we were left to our own devices for the remainder of the afternoon.

 

The Sergeants Mess

 

The AGM was attended with great expectation, not only to hear of what the future holds for Arborfield in general, but also how this will affect the AOBA, and reunions in particular. All of you (except those new addresses I have – I’ll be in touch soon), will have read either last years reunion report or the introductory letter, in which I outlined a somewhat uncertain short-term future, but the long-term objective for Arborfield and its closure, and the move of all facilities to St Athan. Well, it is now even more uncertain. Our secretary, Bill Cleasby (61C) stated that everything was ‘on hold’ until the ongoing Strategic Defence and Security Review had been finalised, the findings of which are due for publication in the Autumn. Nothing can be taken for granted, and it has even been suggested that REME as a Corps may disappear, to become part of some kind of tri-service maintenance group! The contractors at St Athan seem to think everything is going ahead, but others are more doubtful. In short we just don’t know, and we will have to await the review findings.

 

As for Arborfield, the land is too valuable to remain MOD property and the local councils still expect that eventually it will be developed into a new town. Next years reunion is secure in its present format, but after that we are unsure. Bill Cleasby and his deputy Keith Evens have indicated that they will be standing down after the 2011 reunion (it’s Bill’s 50th). There is also an ongoing problem with the availability of accommodation. The reunions are becoming more popular, but accommodation is limited, so much so that some people had to be turned away this year. It is a possibility, and it is being discussed, that from 2012, accommodation will be at an hotel in Reading where the dinner will also be held, but everyone will be bussed to Arborfield on the Saturday for the parade, service and a chance to wander around, visit the museum etc. etc. We 62ers may be lucky for our 50th anniversary in 2012 being in the current format, but there is every possibility of a change. We will just have to wait and see.

 

And so, with the evening drawing in, it was time for the dinner. Alex piped everyone in, and played a nice number or two at half time! The meal this year was an excellent Duck Pate followed by Chicken En Croute, Raspberry Torte, Cheese and Biscuits and Coffee, all washed down with your choice of red or white. Feeling somewhat more bloated than before, it was back to the Sgt’s Mess to round off the evening with more stories and tales of daring do!

 

               At Dinner                                        Alex and Carl                                Left overs!!

 

               Mike and Ian                               The Lone Piper                             Ian, John & Ken

 

Sunday was, as always, a sad time as we said our farewells and dispersed to every compass bearing imaginable, all vowing to return next year. There was of course a reunion church service held in the Garrison Church for those wishing to attend. All in all, we had a fantastic weekend, and it was great to meet old friends once again.

 

So, that is about it. I know I speak for all of us attending this year; we had a great time and hope to see more of you 62ers in the future. I know some do intend to be with us next year and others, who are more widely spread, are making plans for 2012.

 

I intend to issue a short news update about the future when things become more clear, maybe in about six months time, so watch this space, but in meantime, please keep in touch.

 

Best Regards – John Swarbrick

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