Once again in Stratford upon Avon, by the sound of the feedback and your thank you letters, a wonderful time was had by all. Sadly many of our regular attendees are no longer with us, but we always remember and honour them, and thankfully each year we are joined by more!
There were 70 of us who took over the hotel for the weekend and 85 of us for the Saturday evening dinner. This included 16 FEPOWs, 3 partners/wives and 10 widows. Below, Margaret and Lesley with their 'boys' ...
Front left to right - Ron Mockford, Jim Surr, Ted Read, Bob Boocock, Vic Pugh, Bill Marshall, William Mundy, Bill Frankland, John Baxter, Tom Boardman, Harold Lock & 'Mac' McDaniel. Rear left to right - George Reynolds, Lesley, George Spink, Bill Macaulay, Harold Pleasance and Margaret
It was the first time in years that Jim Surr had come along and lovely for some of us get to meet him, all thanks to his son, Steve, for bringing him, who enjoyed himself so much he has now joined and is bringing more of the family with Jim next year!
It was also lovely to have a last minute attendance from George Spink. Sadly Queenie could not join him due to ill health, but again thanks to his lovely neighbour Luke for bringing him.
Also lovely to see our regular attendees, Flora with Bob Boocock, the 'Baxter boys' with John, Ron with Tom Boardman, Susie (how does she look so immaculate with such a tiny suitcase?) with Bill Frankland, Louise with Gill Hopkinson, David with mum Olive Ladmore, Brian with Bill Marshall, Brenda with Mac, Pam with Vic & Elsie Pugh, Tom with brother George Reynolds, Shirley with Margaret Ryall, Pam Stubbs with her son and grandson,and this year son Colin who brought Ted Read.
We also welcomed those who came along to join with their old friends - Sheila Brede, Elsie Edwards, June Elkington-Housego, Ann Kelly, Harold Lock, Bill Macaulay, Lorna Mackenzie-Calder, William Mundy, locals Harold Pleasance and Ron Mockford and his daughter Marguerite, and not so old 'old' friends, Sue Turner & Peter, Tony & Liz Perkins, Keith Andrews, Meg Parkes, Adrian & Jane Batty, Lore Ridings, Patrick & Jill Walker, Hazel Wilson, Christine & Alan Broadhurst, Martin &NoockPrechner - and if I've forgotten anyone else, I'm sorry!!
It was lovely to welcome some new faces too - Robert, son of one of our original members Emrys Withey, Michael, son of Peter Barton, Jane Flower historian and author, daughter of Colonel Henry Flower, Imogen Holmes daughter of Patrick Kirkwood and Ros Weaver daughter of Eric Smith.
Unfortunately Maurice Naylor was not up to the weekend after all, but thankfully saved himself for a great performance in London on VJ Day. Dear Joyce Willgoss didn't feel up to the journey, Reg Beck's daughter Marian & Tony Rutherfordwere also unwell but sent their very best to everyone - you were all sorely missed.
Thanks go to local Councillor Chris Wall for again organising our wheelchairs, which got a lot more use this year, and the Mayor & Consort, Tessa and Charles Bates for their warm welcome and attendance throughout the weekend. We were even joined by dear Charles Wilson, the Civic Secretary, this year - he has organised the Mayorall attendances for us for some years and always popped along to meet everyone, but asked to join our dinner this year too, such a lovely compliment - here's hoping we've not scared him off for next year!!
Other lovely local friends who joined us and should be thanked are Rose, our singer, her husband (roadie) Eric & pianist Steve. I feel so bad asking favours of people, but every year they come willingly to entertain us so wonderfully for our post dinner sing-a-long, which always ends with a rousing chorus of Land of Hope & Glory!
Another regular attendee who is often overlooked but always makes his mark, is the lovely Simon Foster, he used to be the Civic Photographer but now volunteers his services to come along and take photographs, giving us lovely reminders of our visits and members each year. Once again it is thanks to Simon for taking and allowing us to use his lovely photographs here! Every year he risks his life on the roof of the hotel to take our traditional pre-dinner group shot .
At our AGM we were honoured to have Pam Stubbs launch her third book 'Unsung Heroes of the British Army - The Far East Prisoners of War Held in Java 1942-1945' which I'm sure will prove to be as invaluable to us, and all researchers as her previous two books on the RAF and Navy! More information on how to obtain a copy of this later in this edition.Meg Parkes also brought her recently launched book 'Captive Memories' as detailed in our last newsletter.
Pam Stubbs' grandson, William, proved to be a great asset as Lesley's 'glamorous assistant' giving out leaflets for the AGM, organising the raffle table and being a great help - we understand he cannot join us next year but we sincerely hope to see him again! Also of a great help were our gorgeous 'Raffle Babes', Flora Winter and Christine Broadhurst, who managed to extract £410 from everyone! And thanks to everyone for their generous donations and raffle prizes (including the much sought-after book on steam trains which took the brunt of my mickey taking!).
The RBL pulled out all the stops to make our Sunday memorial service in the beautiful Garden of Remembrance one to remember. There were so many Standards in attendance this year that the parade warranted a spontaneous round of applause! The Reverend Neville Beamer spoke touchingly as ever and we finished with the National Anthem. Many local people attended along with many of our friends from the RBL and the Mayor, Tessa Bates and her husband Charles. We adjourned to the RBL Club house afterwards where Margaret Hastie and the ladies of the Women's Section laid on a lovely spread for our members. Thank you so much as ever to our wonderful comrades at the Stratford upon Avon branch of the RBL!
As you can see we made good use of Bill Welch's flag entrusted to us for our reunions and which we send around for members' funerals. We were also fortunate to have Reg Beck's carved wooden Java Club triangle emblem, thanks to Marian getting it to us despite her absence.