2013 Reunion Report
The 97th Entry have celebrated the 50th anniversary of Graduation (albeit a trifle early) at the Holiday Inn at Hemel Hempstead. It was held on the weekend of 20/21 September and it allowed members to attend the Halton Tri-Annual.
Most of those attending arrived on the Friday, giving us a day to get over the journey and to allow us a natter over a few pints in the bar. We were able to welcome newcomers, Richard 'Duane' Lyle, with his wife Lea and their son, Paris; Rowan and Michele Bullock; Peter and Jess Meldrum and Paul and Sarah Sapwell. Most of these had not seen the rest of the revellers for 50 years, but as we all know, it was as if it were yesterday!
The Saturday morning bought the usual mix of weather, including a few light showers, thankfully of short duration. Those at Halton were entertained by the Golden Oldies Pipes and Drums and a host of other diversions put on by the present camp occupants, sadly no longer apprentices, but still trainees. We thank the Camp Commandant the RAFAAA Committee, the staff of the greatly improved Apprentice Museum and indeed the trainees and their directing Staff. Many of the trainees we spoke to were in their 17th day of training!
It is on these Tri-annual days that a visitor to the Museum will have a chance to speak to the living subjects of the apprentice endeavour, most of whom are as informative as the relicts on display.
The Tri-Annual also gave us a chance to renew friendships from the other Entries at Halton during our time there.
John Channon and Sam Wright spent the day piping and still had enough puff to pipe two entries to their respective Dinners at the hotel. Once they had a chance to whet their whistle, they also did a few requests during the evening, much to the delight of other Patrons of the Holiday Inn.
Wives and partners not at Halton, shopped, visited old haunts, saw Hatfield House and generally enjoyed the day before we gathered in the bar to await the skirl of the pipes and dinner was served. The meal brought many admiring comments from the diners and the Hotel staff did us proud, not just in the dining room but in all areas of the Hotel.
Mike and Diane Woods came the furthest this time, from Canada, and there were the usual crop of members from several European countries. Things have gone full circle with Alastair Jack unable to attend because of his commitment to teach aircraft apprentices in Brisbane.
In all 45 sat down to dine and of these 25 were Entry members. As Ron Stamper reminded us during the evening, many have now passed on and there are others who can no longer make the trip. I urge those of us in better health to make the effort to contact those who couldn't get to the reunion. A phone call can make a deal of difference.
This has been our eighth three-yearly reunion, but probably the first since the bulk of the entry retired. During the evening a number expressed the desire to meet a little sooner next time, so keep an eye to the Royal 97th Entry website.