Army Apprentice School Arborfield


Arborfield Old Boys Association

Reunion 2011 + 1

John Swarbrick

Here’s a detailed account and some more pictures from John


Army Apprentices School – Arborfield


Intakes 1962

Reunion 2011


Hello all.


Well, another AOBA reunion is over, and despite the fact that everyone enjoyed themselves, those of us from the 1962 intakes came away rather disappointed; more of which later. Nevertheless, a great weekend with many friendships rekindled! For those of you who are members of the AOBA, a full report with lots of photos will be forthcoming in the next bumper issue of OBAN, so keep your eyes peeled for that.


As usual I shall be sending this en masse to all from our three intakes for whom I have an email address. During the past year some who had previously been ‘on our lists’ have withdrawn or email addresses have changed so they are no longer contactable. There have also been many additions, so to bring you up to date with known contacts; I shall attach the current contact list for your intake only. If you wish for the other two intake 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.


The reunion this year was billed as the ‘last chance to parade on the square,’ and many new faces were in attendance, all wanting to ‘be there’ just in case the opportunity was not forthcoming next year. Those of you who received last years report will remember that much fundraising was in evidence for the Apprentice Memorial fund. That project is rapidly coming to an end and after a fantastic effort by the OBA’S from all four of the apprentice schools, the memorial will be dedicated on 7th September with a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. If you want to know more follow the link below. (Ctrl + click).




Attendance was much improved on last year, with no less than sixteen 62ers making an appearance either for the full weekend or just the Saturday. From 62A there was myself, Danny Hopkins and Cliff Grove all ‘A’ Coy, Ian Tilson ‘B’ Coy, Alex Burt, Pete Shephard, Mike Wright, John Flynn and Terry Jones all ‘C’ Coy. Alas, nobody from ‘D’ Coy, although Don Hill (61C but was relegated to 62A) was there for his 50th reunion. From 62B there was Paul Tonkin ‘A’ Coy and Bill Wheeler ‘C’ Coy, and from 62C John Clay and Terry Houghton both ‘A’, Carl Powell and Terry O’Sullivan both ‘B’ and from ‘C’ Coy Mike Cheeseman. Like Don Hill, Ken Blowman, (also 61C but relegated to 62A ‘A’ Coy) was with us and celebrating his 50th anniversary in style.


Ian and myself met up with Danny and Ken at the ‘Brams’ on the Friday afternoon for a couple of ‘warmers into the bank’ after which we set off to book in. This was much improved on last year, with rooms already allocated, so the process was much quicker. Once showered and changed it was over to the Sgts’ Mess for an excellent curry buffet, and an evening of meeting old friends and acquaintances.






Saturday, and the prospect of a final parade on ‘the square’ spurred everyone into action. It was a fine warm day, and, as in previous years everyone wishing to participate assembled behind the old ‘Jeepland’ block where a glass of port was made available to fortify us all for this last march on! Alex and his pipe band led the way, watched from the side of the square by a gathering of those excused duties, wives, friends and hangers on! The REME CSM calling out the pace was something else. Instead of calling ‘left, right, left’ etc. at the nice sedentary pace as befits an ageing squad of gentlemen; and I hasten to add in time with the base drum, he was calling his own at a rate more fitting of the younger generation. Needless to say, comment from the ranks was plentiful and ‘rich,’ but I’ll leave that to your imagination.


As usual the parade was commanded by the AOBA Chairman, Col Brian Hutchins (61B) and the reviewing officer was Major General Ian Dale CBE (74B). Inspection over, the march past began, but Brian had a senior moment as he failed to command ‘close order’ before we executed the right turn and stepped off. Tut, tut, what are things coming to? So, as we closed ranks marching toward Jeepland, we were soon wheeling to march back down the square and past the saluting dais to the applause of the gathered crowd, and all to the stirring music from the pipe band.

Danny, Ken and Ian at the ‘Brams’             The ‘Brams’                       The Square and ‘J’ Coy from                                                              

                                                                                                                                        Nuffield Rd

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 Cannon Bev John (66A). It was saddening and somewhat depressing to stand and listen to the names of forty-one AOBA members who have held their final passing out parade since last year.


The service over, the old school gates were opened and in some disarray, the parade marched out for the last time. Even the General tagged onto the end along with others who just wanted to do it. After walking back into the camp, it was back to the Sgts’ BBQ, after which, and as usual, we were left to our own devices for the remainder of the afternoon.Mess for the

         Ready To March On              Centre rank, John, Bill Wheeler                    Absent Friends

                                                     Paul Tonkin and Cliff Grove



Now for the news we had all been dreading. The AGM was attended with great expectation, with us 62ers hoping for just one more reunion at Arborfield. Not to be I am sad to report. Unfortunately, the facilities that support the reunions are winding down, and the focal point, the Sergeants Mess in Hazebrouck Barracks, we are told is to close in the spring of 2012. So the association has ‘bitten the bullet’ so to speak, and has voted overwhelmingly to abandon Arborfield for future reunions. This is sad news for us 62ers, as it would have been nice to celebrate our 50th at the place where it all began. Somebody has to be the first I suppose, and unfortunately it is us.

REME as a corps is also moving its home. You may be aware that RAF Lyneham is to close as a flying station, and all flying activities will move to RAF Brize Norton. Lyneham will become a tri-service training establishment and this means that SEAE and SEME from Bordon will be moving there, together with the REME Museum. This will happen over the next few years, but it is hoped that at some point in the future we as an association may be able to use military facilities once again, and in so doing reduce costs. That, as I say is for the future, and is by no means certain. In the meantime, annual reunions will have to be centred on civilian facilities, and in 2012 the Barceló Hotel at Hinckley Island in Leicestershire has been identified as the probable location. Check it out from this link:


This has advantages, but as with everything, a downside too. Not being at Arborfield and the increased cost are the negatives, but the accommodation will be far better than we are used to, and will also be able to cater for all those that wish to attend. (Due to the run down of Arborfield, numbers have had to be restricted in recent years, bringing disappointment to many). Also, with this comes the opportunity for wives, partners etc. to attend. This hotel is not far from the National Memorial Arboretum, and it is planned that next year the drumhead service and parade will be held there. Rather fitting I think.


And so, with the evening drawing in, it was time for the dinner. As usual Alex piped everyone in, and he also played a number or two at half time, for which he received the customary dram from the top table! The meal this year was an excellent Tempura Prawns followed by Beef Wellington, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cheese and Biscuits and Coffee, all washed down with your choice of red or white. At the end of the meal, a presentation was made with much applause, to Bill Cleasby and Keith Evens to thank them on their retirement for their sterling work as the Association Secretary and Assistant Secretary. Filled to excess and feeling the effect of the grape, it was back to the Sgt’s Mess to round off the evening.


To celebrate the 50th next year I have had made four items of clothing, all embroidered with the old school cap badge and anniversary wording as per the picture below. A ‘T’ shirt, Polo shirt, sweat shirt and a base ball cap. (The cap only has the cap badge with ‘1962’ split ‘19’ to the left and ‘62’ to the right). The boys were impressed, and Ian and I took several orders. We have decided to throw the offer out to everyone else, even if you are not contemplating attending next year. I will not go into details here, but Mike Cheeseman has kindly posted all the information on his 62C website, so take a look from the link below, and if you are interested in anything, let me know. (At the time of writing this, some details and costs have yet to be finalised). (Clothing page has now been discontinued. 26/6/2012)

Alex Prepares To March On             The Inspection. John (Hidden)                 Drumhead Service

                                                                Bill, Paul and Cliff   


Sunday was, as always, a sad time as we said our farewells and dispersed to the four corners. Pete Shephard had come from Laos and Cliff Grove from the USA! All in all, we had a fantastic weekend, and it was great to meet old friends once again. I think I’m right in saying that all present said they will be in attendance next year.


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 at our 50th reunion next year, which incidentally will be held over the first weekend in June, so as not to clash with the Olympics.


As always I will issue news updates as and when required, but in meantime, take care and please keep in touch.


The Gates close for the last time.  

Best Regards – John

Arborfield 62 C.Reunions.Reunion 2009.Reunion 2010.Reunion 2011.2012 50 Years.Reunion2014.Reunion 2015.


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            Danny and Alex                            Wake up Pete!                             Alex Counting His Tips

 John Flynn and Danny                    Alex Playing at Half Time             Pete Shephard and Mike Wright