On Parade 50 Years On.
[Photograph: The 74th Entry Golden Graduation Reunion parade on Henderson parade square RAF Halton. ]
The 74th Entry convened over the weekend of 24th to the 27th March 2006 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Graduation on 28 March 1956. Venue was the Holiday Inn, Aylesbury.
Has it Really Been 50 Years?
[Photograph: Nick Boulton and Peter Chappelle.]
It was the first time I had met these lads in over fifty years. Felt like only yesterday.##############################
Friday 24th March: Arriving at the Holiday Inn.
Tony Merry, who had done a marvellous job organising the event, was in the hotel lounge from 17.30hrs to log us in and give us name tags. Souvenir Fleece Jackets, suitably amblazoned with the Entry badge, were then issued to all the lads (I still don't know what the latin inscription means). I think the only person I recognized immediately was Tony - he hadn't changed a bit - thank goodness.
The 74th Entry are Reunited.
After evening meal in the hotel or at other local hostelries in the town the Entry and their ladies spent the evening socializing in the hotel lounge until the early hours.
Saturday 25 March: Visit to Hendon Aircraft Museum
Reveille at 07.30hrs. Breakfast served from 07.30hrs in the hotel restaurant.
We assembled in the hotel reception area, most lads wearing those wonderful fleeces, for the visit to the RAF Museum at Hendon. The coach arrived at Hendon at about 11.30hrs. Hendon Aircraft Museum was absolutely fabulous, enjoyed by the ladies as much as by the lads.
Most of the aircraft, engines and other bits and pieces we had worked on during our RAF service were there. Even the Derwent Mk.8 engine I had spent so much time with during my own service. Memories came flooding back. Then came a break for lunch in one of the museum's cafes.
Next we gathered in the upper gallery of the Historic Hangar to inspect the Halton display. Not enough time, and so the coach back to Aylesbury in time for tea.
The Celebration Dinner.
The smartly turned out 74 th Entry and their ladies gathered in the hotel lounge bar area and were piped into dinner at 19.00hrs by Keith Youldon, Pipe Major of the Golden Oldies Pipe Band. Dinner was served at 19.30hrs. After dinner Tony gave a detailed explanation outlining the two failed attempts to obtain a lottery grant from Awards for All.
After the meal Keith played many a familiar tune on the pipes and we sang along. There was also a raffle of booze and boxes of chocolates followed by some good humoured speeches. The wine flowed freely and as expected the celebration continued in the lounge into the late hours. Everyone I'm sure had a really good night.
Sunday 26 March: Back to Halton Camp after 50 years.
Reveille at 08.30 hrs. Breakfast served in the hotel restaurant from 07.30hrs, Did everyone make it?
The Entry and their ladies set off by coach at 10.30hrs for the journey to RAF Halton. On arrival at Kermode Hall (Schools as was) the 74th Entry formed up behind the pipe band, for the march to St George's church.
Impressed by the smart turnout and the medals that were worn I slipped in at the rear of the parade as the pipe band played the Black Bear my favourite from 50 years ago.
74th Entry Church Parade and Re-dedication of Our Window.
[Photograph: The 74th entry Window at RAF Halton Church.
The Coronation Entry 1953 to 1956.]
Although not a regular church goer I was deeply moved by the 50th Anniversary service in St Georges Church at RAF Halton during our visit there on Sunday 27th March 2006.
The Church Service commenced at 12.00hrs and was conducted by the Rev Peter Townsend, 74 th Entry. After the main service we all gathered at the rear of the church near the 74th Entry window. During the rededication the said the Apprentices' Prayer together:
"Teach us good Lord, to be thankful for the good times, which we have had, the skills, which we have learned, the friendships, which we have shared, and the companionship, which we have enjoyed. May all who have shared the Apprenticeship of the Wheel be mindful of the needs of others. Through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen."
This made me realise that for me the Reunion wasn't a recognition of service in the Air Force but a celebration of the wonderful comradeship we had built in those early years and had survived the passage of time. Some had served many years in the Air Force whilst others, like myself, had left the RAF early, to take up successful careers in civilian life.
But the spirit of the 74th lives on.
The Roll of Honour was read out by Peter Townsend with the familiar remembrance quotation: "They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old; age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them.
Hardly a dry eye in the place I suspect.
Photocall at the Tribute.
Following the service the entry gathered for a 74th Entry photo-call at the Tribute. With much messing about I must report. After which each trade had their own group photo-call. The ladies doing most of the camera work.
Then back on the coach for the journey to Halton House only 5 minutes away where buffet lunch with wine and soft drinks were served. Back on the coach again and off to Henderson Parade Square.
The Big 74th Entry Parade.
The Entry formed up off the square adjacent to the sick quarters as we knew it whilst the ladies made their way to the seating area at the front of the square. The Souvenir fleece jackets were proudly worn by everyone for the parade - and the weather was a little chilly.
74th Entry marched onto the square behind the pipe band at 14.45hrs. The band took up position with the Entry arranged before it. The Reviewing officer, our own Squadron Leader Jim Young MBE inspected the Entry and then presented named certificates to all those present.
The Trenchard Museum.
We marched off behind the band and halted behind the Trenchard Museum for dismissal at 15.15hrs. The band had been excellent and was applauded by all as it left the parade square. Everyone then spent some time inside the museum.
Tea and cake were served in the Henderson Mess at 15.45hrs. And our souvenir mugs collected. A 74th Entry Celebation cake was presented to us by the catering staff - very nice indeed. Then return to the Holiday Inn. Evening meal taken in the hotel or at local hostelries.
The End of a Wonderful Experience.
Monday 27 March Reveille 08.00 hrs. Breakfast from 07.30hrs. rooms vacated and checked out by 10.30hrs. I left about 09.00hrs as I had a long journey back to Newcastle. But the spirit of the 74th lives on.
The line up of the pic is as follows: -
Back row l to r : Dennis Carlton, Dave Neal, Graham Napthan
Front row l to r : Tony Pulford, Michael Anderton, Laurie Bowes
And thanks lads. Meeting you all those years ago gave me a great start in life.
Joe Bosher (74th).